Below are some of the most frequently asked questions patients have about their vision and general eye health issues. If you have any other questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, we would love to hear from you.
What is the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist?
The distinction between an Ophthalmologist, an Optometrist, and an Optician is a source of confusion for many people. While all are concerned with eye care, there are extreme differences between them. Understanding of these differences, including education, training, and scope of patient care performed is critical when choosing an eye care provider for you or your family.
What is an Ophthalmologist?
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who specializes in all aspects of eye care including diagnosis, management, and surgery of ocular diseases and disorders. They provide primary eye care services including eye exams and prescribe medications and perform surgical procedures, such as laser surgery and lens replacement. Using both surgical and non-invasive techniques, ophthalmologists diagnose and manage eye diseases, conditions, and disorders, and treat and repair eye injuries.
An ophthalmologist receives a minimum of 12 years of education, including 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 1 or more years of general clinical training, and 3 or more years in a hospital-based ophthalmic residency program, often followed by 1 or more years of subspecialty fellowship. They must then pass a licensing examination.
Though most ophthalmologists practice what is known as”general” or”comprehensive” ophthalmology, some choose to specialize in a particular part of the eye (such as the retina or the muscles around the eye) or type of condition or disease (such as glaucoma). If the ophthalmologist wishes to specialize, he or she must complete a fellowship of an additional year or more.
A common misconception about ophthalmologists is that they are not primary eye care providers. That is simply not true. Ophthalmologists provide total eye care, from performing a check-up to managing a complicated disease. In fact, although there are almost twice as many practicing optometrists as ophthalmologists, about 25% of the nation’s refractions and eye examinations are performed by ophthalmologists.
As medical doctors, ophthalmologists are regulated by state medical boards.
What is an Optometrist?
Optometrists provide routine vision care. The practice of optometry traditionally involves examining the eye for the purpose of prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses and vision screening to detect certain eye abnormalities. An optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and is licensed to practice optometry, not medicine. An optometrist may have only 6 years of post-high school training, consisting of 2-4 years of college and 4 years in an optometric college.
Beyond refractive abnormalities, an optometrist’s training includes limited exposure to patients with eye disorders or health problems. Didactic training in medical, pharmaceutical and ocular subjects averages approximately 1 year.
What is an Optician?
An optician fits, adjusts and dispenses eyeglasses or corrective lenses that are prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. An optician cannot examine the eyes for disorders or prescribe contact lenses, glasses, or medication.
Q: My eyes burn all the time and my vision blurs sometimes with it, what do I do?
A: Burning and foreign body sensation can usually mean you have a disorder of the eyelids and interferes with the production of a good tear film called Blepharitis. Blepharitis is a localized inflammation of the eyelids sometimes due to bacteria in and around the eyelids and there are different forms. Sometimes warm compresses applied to the eyes twice daily along with lid scrubs (Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo diluted with warm water applied to a wash cloth and used to scrub your eyelids) and artificial tears usually makes the eyes feel better.
Q: How often should I have an eye exam?
A: Eye exams are recommended periodically, with the interval differing for various age groups. In the first three years of infancy, a child should have vision checked along with normal pediatric checkups. Between the ages of three and six (the most crucial period of eye development) an eye exam should be scheduled every year or two. After that period, until adulthood, exams should be scheduled as necessary. During the twenties one should have at least one exam. During the thirties one should have at least two exams. In the forties, fifties, and early sixties, one should schedule an exam every two to four years. For seniors, an exam every year or two is recommended.
In addition to these basic guidelines, people with a family history of eye problems, those monitoring a diagnosed eye disease, or those with certain high risk diseases such as diabetes, it is recommended that exams should be performed at least once a year. Regular eye exams are the best way to keep you seeing your world clearly.
Q: I have been noticing strange things with my vision lately. What should I do?
A: Any abnormal phenomena or changes in your vision can indicate a variety of possible problems. The key to preserving vision in the face of most eye diseases is early treatment. Thus it is important to consult an ophthalmologist if you notice anything unusual or any change in your vision. It could be a serious problem, or it could be inconsequential, but the peace of mind and the possibility of catching a serious problem early are certainly worth it.
Q: My vision is great; I have no problems. Is there any reason to have my vision checked?
A: Many serious eye diseases often have little or no symptoms until they are well developed. The only way to diagnose a problem early in such a case is to schedule periodic eye exams. This is the best way to preserve the clearest vision possible for life.
Q: Is LASIK safe?
A: It is important to realize that, like any surgery, LASIK is not without risk. However, major complications are extremely rare. Minor complications occasionally occur, such as dry eye, and halos or glare around lights at night. However, such problems are uncommon, are often treatable, and will usually reduce or disappear within months of the surgery.
Q: Is LASIK guaranteed to eliminate my need for glasses or contacts?
A: Many people achieve 20/20 vision, or better, after undergoing LASIK eye surgery. Although patients experience an improvement in their vision, some may still need to wear corrective lenses for certain tasks, though the necessary power of correction will be much smaller than before.
The result of the LASIK procedure is also influenced by the amount of correction needed. Patients within a few diopters of 20/20 vision most often achieve sufficient results after undergoing LASIK that they no longer require corrective lenses. Patients with a wider error, especially those who are extremely nearsighted, sometimes will still require corrective lenses after the surgery, though their prescription will be greatly reduced.
Q: Is LASIK right for me?
A: If you are considering LASIK eye surgery, it means you are living with nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, and probably currently wear glasses or contact lenses. LASIK is a great way to reduce your dependence on, or completely free yourself from, corrective lenses. It may be especially appealing because of your profession or lifestyle. It could be that you cannot wear contact lenses and dislike the appearance of glasses, or you may just want to reduce the expense and hassle of glasses and contacts.
However, LASIK is not appropriate for everyone. There are several factors which determine the best candidate, including age, medical history, individual eye anatomy, and expectations. Each person is a unique case requiring individual evaluation.
No website can tell you for sure if you are a good candidate for LASIK. The only way to find out is to schedule a LASIK eligibility exam. Be prepared to talk about your medical history, and any current diseases or medications. You will also discuss instructions and expectations for the procedure, recovery, and results. You will be given a comprehensive eye examination, including some tests especially tailored to evaluate whether your eyes are appropriate for the corrective surgery. From the results of this exam, the doctor can work with you to decide if LASIK is the right choice for you.
Q: My child wears glasses. Is he/she eligible for LASIK surgery?
A: Throughout childhood and the teens, a person’s vision often does not remain stable. The body is constantly developing and changing. LASIK is a permanent procedure. For this reason, LASIK may not be performed on minors. Once your child is 18 or older, and his or her glasses or contacts prescription has been stable for at least a year or two, he or she may wish to consider LASIK corrective eye surgery.