Q: What is the difference between an Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, and Optician?
An optometrist is a doctor of optometry who examines patients in order to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent diseases and disorders of the eye and vision system and its related structures. An optometrist may also prescribe drugs for the treatment of eye conditions and provide, fit and adjust eyeglasses, contact lenses or subnormal vision devices for patients who require them.
An ophthalmologist is a physician who, upon graduation from medical school, undertakes several years of post-graduate training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye. As well as diagnosing and treating ocular disease either by medical or surgical means, ophthalmologists may offer oculo-visual assessment, which includes prescription for corrective lenses.
An optician provides, fits and adjusts eyeglasses, contact lenses or subnormal vision devices on the prescription of an optometrist or physician.
All three professions are governed by their respective Colleges under the authority of the Regulated Health Professions Act.
Q: How often should I have my eyes tested?
Regular eye examinations play an important role in ensuring that eye health is maintained. Children and seniors are OHIP covered for major eye examinations once per calendar year. Adults between the ages of 20-64 are paid examinations and should be seen once every 2 years and once per year if they are contact lens wearers. If you feel that their is concern with your vision or the health of your eyes, we recommend that you be seen sooner.
Q: Why does my optometrist use eye drops sometimes?
Eye drops that dilate the pupils, called mydriatics, are used in some examinations to enable the doctor to get a better view of the inside of the eye. How often this type of examination is necessary depends on the patient’s symptoms, age, health and family history. The drops generally leave your eyes a little blurry and sensitive to light, so you may not be able to drive immediately after this procedure. The effect of the drops wears off in 2 to 6 hours.
Eye drops that relax the focus of the eyes, called cycloplegics are used to accurately measure the degree of far-sightedness of the eyes. These are generally used for children and young adults. These drops also leave the eyes blurry and sensitive to light.
Eye drops to anesthetize (numb) the eye are used for procedures that require an instrument touching the eye. The anesthetic does not affect vision and lasts about 15 minutes. Some eye drops contain a dye that helps the doctor diagnose abnormalities of the surface of the eye.
Q: I hate that air- puff thing! Is it really necessary?
That “air-puff thing,” although mildly unpleasant, is an important test called non-contact tonometry (NCT). It provides a measurement of the internal fluid pressure of the eye. The doctor uses that information, along with other examination procedures to determine if you have glaucoma or have a risk of developing glaucoma. There are other methods of measuring the intra-ocular pressure which may be used if you cannot tolerate the “air-puff” or if your doctor prefers a different method.
Q: How do I know if I am receiving good vision care?
Optometrists are regulated health professionals and must demonstrate the required knowledge, skill and judgment to become registered in Ontario. Further, they must demonstrate a commitment to continuing competence in order to maintain their registration. You should expect that the optometric care you receive meets the standards of practice. A complete examination will usually include the following components, although variations may occur because of a patient’s age, abilities, and general health and eye conditions:
a health history with emphasis on eyes and vision, including vision needs;
measurement of visual acuity (for example 20/20);
measurement of refractive error (for example far-sightedness, near- sightedness, astigmatism);
determination of the alignment of the eyes;
determination of the way the eyes adjust focus from distance to near;
examination of the eyes for any disease or abnormalities;
a diagnosis from the results of the examination;
recommendations for any treatment required, which may include referral to another health care provider;
provision of a prescription or treatment plan for vision correction if required; and
any counseling or advice that is necessary, including need for future vision care.
You should also expect that optometric care is provided in a manner that maintains the confidentiality of your health information and provides you with the information and freedom you need to make informed decisions about your health care. If you receive treatment services such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, you should expect to be informed of the cost prior to the provision of the service and you should expect the cost of materials to be indicated on your receipt. In the end, you should be satisfied that the care you receive has been appropriate for you.