Eye Health: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist and an optician?

  • An Ophthalmologist (MD) has a medical degree and is licensed to practice medicine and perform eye surgery. An ophthalmologist has had at least 12 years of education and training beyond high school and is qualified to diagnose and treat all eye diseases; perform surgery; prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.
  • An Optometrist (OD) has a degree in optometry and is licensed to practice optometry. An optometrist has had at least six years of education and training beyond high school and is qualified to determine the need for glasses and contact lenses; prescribe optical correction; and screen for some eye conditions.
  • An Optician usually has a combination of college (or two years of opticianry school) and on-the-job training. An optician is trained to fit and dispense eyeglasses or contact lenses based upon a prescription from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist

If I don’t have vision troubles, should I still consult an ophthalmologist?

Because your eyes change as you age, you should consult an ophthalmologist every year or two. If you are over age 60, you should undergo a routine eye exam each year. Early detection is your best chance for successful treatment should you have any vision problems.

How often should I get my eyes checked?

You should have an exam annually to maintain and check the overall health of your eyes. Those with a family history of eye diseases, diabetic patients, and anyone whose general health is poor or who are taking medications that may have potential side effects on the eye may need to have their eyes examined twice a year. You and your doctor should determine the eye exam schedule that best meets your eye care needs.

What can I expect at my routine eye exam?

A comprehensive eye exam includes a variety of brief tests and evaluations to determine the health of your eyes and the quality of your eyesight. Depending on your needs, your eye exam will last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.

Be aware that your ophthalmologist may dilate your pupils, which could affect your near vision for a period of time after your exam. You will be asked a number of questions about your health, your vision, and your personal and family medical history.

What is astigmatism? 

It is an abnormality in which the optical surfaces of the eye (cornea and / or lens) are shaped more like a football (oval) rather than a basketball (round).  Astigmatism is the most common optical problem after myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness).

How can a child be tested for glasses in early childhood?

An ophthalmologist can detect the need for glasses through a complete eye exam. By using a special instrument, called a retinoscope, your eye doctor can arrive at an accurate prescription for children or adults. The ophthalmologist will then advise parents whether there is a need for glasses, or whether the condition can be monitored.

What causes strabismus?

Most strabismus is the result of an abnormality of the poorly understood neuromuscular (including brain) control of eye movement. Less commonly, a problem with the actual eye muscle causes strabismus. Strabismus is any misalignment of the eyes.  It is estimated that 4% of the US population has strabismus.

How is strabismus treated?

The goal of strabismus treatment is to improve eye alignment which allows for better work together. Treatment may involve eye glasses, eye exercises, prism, and/ or eye muscle surgery.

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