Optometrist testing patient's vision with phoropter

How Much Is an Eye Exam in Canada?

Like any other part of our bodies, our eyes require regular check-ups to maintain optimal performance. Regular eye exams, like yearly physicals or dental check-ups, are integral to our health routine.

The primary purpose of an eye exam isn’t merely to update your glasses or contact lenses prescription. It’s a crucial way to keep a check on your overall health.

Eye exams can detect various diseases, from diabetes to high blood pressure. Doctors recommend a comprehensive eye exam for a comprehensive view of your eye health.

Eye health is essential to maintain good vision, a vital sense that most of us rely on for daily activities. Understanding the eye exam cost can be crucial in ensuring we don’t neglect our eye health due to financial considerations.

The Role of Eye Exams in Maintaining Vision Health

Vision health concept with young woman framing her eye

Regular eye exams play a significant role in maintaining vision health. During an eye exam, an eye doctor will check for vision problems, like myopia (shortsightedness) or hypermetropia (farsightedness), and conditions that can lead to vision loss, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.

Children need eye exams to ensure normal vision development. Adults need them to maintain good vision and update their glasses or contact lenses prescription. Routine eye exams are crucial for seniors to detect age-related eye diseases early.

For instance, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan covers some eye exam services in Ontario. Understanding the specifics of the eye exam in Ontario’s cost structure can be particularly helpful for residents.

Thus, regardless of age or physical health, routine eye exams are integral to everyone’s life. They help maintain good vision and contribute to overall health monitoring.

Understanding Eye Exams

Eye exams are not just about finding a new prescription for your glasses or contact lenses. They are much more detailed and designed to detect eye-related issues or diseases early on.

What Is an Eye Exam?

An eye exam is a series of tests performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. These tests range from simple ones, like having you read an eye chart, to complex tests, such as using a high-powered lens to examine the health of the tissues inside your eyes.

The goal is to determine your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses and check for common eye diseases, assess how your eyes work together, and evaluate your eyes as an indicator of your overall health.

Components of an Eye Exam

A comprehensive eye exam thoroughly evaluates your vision and eye health. It includes several components:

Visual Acuity Test

This is probably what you think when envisioning an eye exam. It involves reading a series of progressively smaller letters off a chart.

Preliminary Tests

These tests evaluate specific aspects of vision function, including depth perception, color vision, eye muscle movements, peripheral (or side) vision, and how pupils respond to light.


This process determines your exact eyeglasses prescription. It involves a series of lens choices presented to you to decide which gives you the sharpest vision.


This measures the curvature of your cornea, which helps in fitting contact lenses and diagnosing conditions such as astigmatism.

Eye Health Evaluation

This involves evaluating the front and back of your eyes using tools like a slit lamp microscope and ophthalmoscopy.

Glaucoma Test

This test measures the pressure in your eyes.

Different Types of Eye Exams

There are typically two types of eye exams: a routine eye exam and a contact lens exam.

A routine eye exam is a comprehensive inspection of your eyes for potential disorders or diseases. It’s a critical part of preventative healthcare.

Many people know eye exam costs and try to find free eye exams or affordable retail eye clinics. However, one must be careful, as these may not always offer the most comprehensive tests.

A contact lens exam ensures your contacts are fitting your eyes properly and that the contact lenses do not harm the health of your eyes. It includes special tests that are not typically performed in regular eye exams.

Contact lens exams might cost more than routine eye exams so eye exam prices may vary depending on your medical necessity.

Understanding these exams’ specifics and costs helps plan and manage medical expenses effectively. It’s also worth noting that certain types of eye exams may be covered under your vision insurance.

It is always beneficial to explore options for a free annual eye exam or coverage of eye exam costs under essential medical services provided by government bodies or insurance companies.

The Costs of Eye Exams in Canada

Eye exams are a fundamental part of maintaining good eye health. Understanding the costs associated with these exams is crucial for effective financial and health planning.

The General Cost of Eye Exams

The cost of an eye exam can vary widely in Canada. While many factors can influence the cost of an eye exam, the average cost in Canada ranges from CAD 75 to CAD 150 for a complete eye exam.

However, more specialized tests or procedures like a partial exam or tests for specific conditions like corneal disease may cost extra.

A free eye exam can sometimes be provided as part of certain healthcare programs, such as the Ontario Disability Support Program or other regional programs. Checking for such options before deciding on the eye exam provider is crucial.

Factors Influencing the Price of an Eye Exam

Optometrist doing an eye exam on young woman

Various factors can influence the eye exam price. These include:

Type of Exam

A complete eye exam costs more than a partial or simple vision test.


Children and senior citizens may require more specialized tests due to potential age-related vision problems and are likely to incur higher costs.

Geographic Location

Costs can vary by province. For example, costs in British Columbia may differ from those in other provinces due to the specific provincial health coverage policies.

Medical Condition

If you have a specific medical condition, such as diabetes or eye disease, that requires additional tests, this may increase the exam cost.

Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist

Costs can also vary depending on whether the exam is performed by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, with the latter typically charging higher fees due to their higher level of specialization.

Comparing Costs: Private Practice vs. Optical Chains

The cost of an eye exam can also vary depending on where you get the exam. Private practices may offer more personalized service but charge more than optical chains.

Optical chains often advertise the cheapest eye exam prices and may offer lower costs for a basic annual eye exam. They may also offer package deals with eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, it’s essential to read the fine print to ensure the quality of the service is not compromised.

Some insurance companies, such as Green Shield Health, cover the cost of eye exams as part of their dental insurance plan or as an independent benefit. It’s always wise to check with your insurance provider or consult the Canadian Association’s guidelines for more details on eye exam coverage.

Remember that certain types of eye exams are covered under some provinces’ provincial medical services plans, so it’s always best to check with your local health department or insurance provider for the most accurate information.

Provincial Differences in Eye Exam Pricing

In Canada, the price of eye exams can vary significantly from province to province. This variation is mainly due to different provincial health plans and the cost structures of optometrists in those regions.


In Ontario, the cost of a routine exam or lens exam generally ranges from CAD 75 to CAD 120. However, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers eye exams for individuals under 20, over 65, and those with specific health conditions like diabetes and glaucoma, which can lead to vision loss.

British Columbia

British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) covers the cost of one routine exam per year for individuals under 19 and over 65.

For those aged 19 to 64, the cost of an eye exam is generally not covered unless you have a specific eye disease or require an exam for medical emergencies. The typical cost of an eye exam in British Columbia ranges from CAD 90 to CAD 130.


In Alberta, a routine exam costs around CAD 90 to CAD 140. Alberta’s health care plan, AHCIP, covers eye exams for children under 19 and seniors over 65.

It also covers specific procedures necessary for diagnosing or treating medical conditions of the eye, including one diagnostic procedure per year.


Quebec’s provincial health plan, RAMQ, covers the cost of eye exams for children under 18 and adults over 65.

For adults between 18 and 65, the routine exam cost (ranging from CAD 80 to CAD 150) is typically not covered unless a specific medical history requires regular monitoring.

Eye Exam Prices in Other Canadian Provinces

A routine exam costs around CAD 90 to CAD 130 in other Canadian provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba. However, the provincial health plan only covers exams for individuals with specific conditions, such as diabetes or glaucoma.

In all provinces, additional tests such as retinal imaging may cost extra. Also, it is essential to note that the cost of prescription eyeglasses, visual aids, and surgical procedures for vision impairment is usually separate from the exam costs and may or may not be covered by provincial plans or private insurance coverage.

Therefore, understanding the eye exam coverage in your specific province can help in better financial planning, including budgeting for possible dental costs and eye care expenses. This understanding also aids in choosing the right eye doctors and making informed decisions about eye care.

Eye Exams and Low-Income Households

Young man receiving an eye exam

Eye care can be a significant financial burden for low-income individuals and families. However, there are aid programs and affordable options available that can help to alleviate this burden.

Aid Programs for Low-Income Individuals

Several programs nationwide are designed to assist low-income individuals and families with eye care costs. For instance, the Ontario Works program covers the eye exam cost for adults every two years, along with one pair of prescription glasses.

Similar programs exist in other provinces, such as Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, which provide a free annual eye exam and glasses for those who qualify.

The Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program also provides coverage for annual eye exams and glasses for eligible First Nations and Inuit individuals.

Moreover, the Canadian Association of Optometrists runs the Eye See…Eye Learn® program provides free glasses to children in Junior Kindergarten in several provinces if they need them following their eye test.

Affordable Eye Exam Options

Besides government aid programs, some optometry clinics and retail chains offer affordable or discounted eye exams to make this essential healthcare service more accessible. These facilities may provide a basic eye exam at a lower cost, often covering the initial consultation and one partial exam.

However, it’s essential to note that these discounted exams might not be as comprehensive as full-priced ones. They might not cover specific tests for those with particular health conditions or medical necessity.

While the exam cost in Canada can vary, it’s worth exploring all available options to alleviate medical expenses.

If you have insurance, checking with your insurance providers to see what is covered under your plan is worthwhile. Some insurance plans cover eye exams or discount the exam cost.

Thus, there are many ways for low-income households to access affordable or free eye exam options. The key is researching and asking about available resources in your province or community.

Tips to Reduce Eye Exam Costs

While eye exams are essential to eye health, the associated costs can sometimes be a burden. Here are some strategies to help manage these costs effectively.

Timing Your Eye Exams

Timing your eye exams can have an impact on costs. For example, many healthy adults may only need an eye exam every two years rather than annually unless they have a condition that requires more frequent monitoring.

However, regular check-ups can help detect potential issues in their early stages, preventing more serious (and often more expensive) problems.

It’s always wise to discuss with your optometrist the best schedule for your eye exams based on your personal needs and medical necessities.

Choosing the Right Eye Care Provider

Where you choose to have your eye exam can also influence the cost. While private practices might offer more personalized care, retail chains or clinics might provide the same service at a reduced cost. Some of these clinics also offer promotions or discounts on follow-up appointments.

Before choosing a provider, consider their fees, the thoroughness of their exam, and whether they provide specific services you may need. Also, don’t hesitate to ask if they offer discounts or special packages that include the cost of eye exams, glasses, or cleaning supplies.

Lastly, remember that some provinces assist those who receive income support or are part of low-income families. For example, certain eye exams are covered under Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island provincial programs.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can take the necessary steps to reduce your eye exam cost and better manage any medical expenses related to eye care.


Maintaining your eye health is crucial for overall well-being. In today’s digital age, where many people spend long hours in front of screens, taking proactive measures to care for your eyes is essential.

Besides using light therapy lamps specifically designed for this purpose, regular eye exams play a critical role. This allows for early detection and treatment of potential vision problems. However, the associated costs can sometimes present a barrier.

The good news is that in many cases, such as specific age groups or those with certain health conditions, eye exams are covered by provincial healthcare plans.

Programs for those with medical necessity and those for low-income households also exist to assist. These programs can often include free annual eye exams and even cover costs for prescription glasses.

Choosing the right eye care provider can help manage costs, especially when they offer discounts or special packages. Remember that providers can range from private practices to optical chains, each having its benefits.

Whether you’re getting an eye exam in Ontario or any other province, understanding the landscape of eye exam costs, coverage, and support available is the first step in ensuring your eyes get the care they need.

As such, we encourage you to ask questions, research, and consult professionals to understand your unique needs and choose an option that suits your budget.

Keep your eyes on the prize—because good vision is a precious asset that deserves your attention.

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