Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is an ophthalmologist?
A: An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in issues related to the health of the eyes.
Q: What does an ophthalmologist treat?
A: In addition to diagnosing and treating vision problems, ophthalmologists have the skill and training needed to diagnose and provide medical care, and even eye surgery, for all eye problems.
Q: What can an ophthalmologist do that other kinds of eye specialists can’t?
A: They are the only eye care professionals who are able to perform surgery, such as laser eye surgery, which eliminates or diminishes the need for corrective lenses, as well as surgery to treat illness and diseases that plague the eyes.
Q: What is required to become an ophthalmologist?
A: According to The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, in order for a doctor to become certified as an ophthalmologist, he or she must complete four years of college and eight additional years of medical education and training, as well as pass a rigorous two-part examination given by the American Board of Ophthalmology.
Q: There isn’t an ophthalmologist in my area. What other type of practitioner can I see to keep my eyes healthy?
A: An optometrist can help you. The optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist if surgery is necessary.
Q: What is an optometrist?
A: An optometrist is a doctor who is trained to examine, diagnose and treat eye disorders and diseases, and to determine the need for corrective lenses, such as glasses and contacts.
Q: My eyes are healthy, but I need glasses. Can I see an optometrist instead of an ophthalmologist?
A: Yes, an optometrist can diagnose the need for glasses and determine the correct prescription. They frequently serve as primary eye care providers, making referrals to ophthalmologists when surgery is needed.
Q: My optometrist says I would be an ideal candidate for lasik, but she says she cannot perform the procedure. Why?
A: Optometrists do not perform surgery. An Optometrist may determine the need for eye surgery and refer the patient to an ophthalmologist who performs the surgical procedure. Optometrists provide pre- and post-operative care to their clients.
Q: What is required to become an optometrist?
A: To become an optometrist, a person must first complete an undergraduate degree and then attend a four year, doctorate level training at an accredited institution. According to the American Optometric Association, optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate level training specific to vision, eye health and conditions closely associated with the eyes. Graduates of accredited optometry programs possess a doctorate of optometry, or OD, degree. To practice in their field, optometrists must pass a rigorous, three-part examination conducted by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.
Q: What is an optician?
A: An optician is an individual who is trained to dispense and adjust vision correction products, such as glasses and contacts.
Q: What is the difference between an optician and ophthalmologists and optometrists?
A: Unlike ophthalmologists and optometrists, opticians are not qualified to diagnose the need for corrective eyewear.
Q: What do opticians do?
A: Opticians run glasses shops. Opticians can also work in laboratories creating the lenses used in glasses. An ophthalmologist or optometrist is needed to determine the appropriate prescription, but an optician is the person who actually creates the corrective device.
Q: How does a person become an optician?
A: Opticians are educated through trade schools or apprentice programs to expertly craft corrective eye glass lenses. Some opticians are licensed through the American Board of Opticianry, although licensure is not a requirement in all fifty states.
Q: What is nearsightedness?
A: Nearsightedness is a refractive error of the eye, in which objects in the distance appear blurred. It occurs because light entering the eye is focused incorrectly. Individuals who have nearsightedness have difficulty focusing on distant objects.
Q: What is farsightedness?
A: Farsightedness is a refractive error of the eye, in which objects appear blurred at close range. It occurs because the visual image is focused behind the retina, instead of directly on it. Individuals who have farsightedness have difficulty focusing on close objects, such as the words on a page.
Q: What is astigmatism?
A: Astigmatism is a refractive error of the eye, in which objects appear blurred and there is difficulty focusing on fine details. People who have astigmatism have an abnormally curved cornea, which causes the vision to be out of focus.
Q: What is glaucoma?
A: Glaucoma refers to several variations of an eye condition that ultimately results in damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma is a serious problem and is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. There are four types of glaucoma, but they all involve an increase in pressure within the eye. This pressure is ultimately what causes the damage to the optic nerve.
Q: What are cataracts?
A: Cataracts are a clouding over of the lens of the eye. Indicators that a person may have cataracts include blurred vision, double vision, difficulty seeing at night, frequent changes to corrective lenses, and problems with glare.
Q: How can I decide if I should get glasses, contacts or laser eye surgery?
A: When choosing between eyeglasses, contact lenses, and laser surgery it is important to consult with your optometrist or ophthalmologist to determine which option is most appropriate for your life and your optical health. There are many factors including age, lifestyle habits and additional vision problems that may prohibit some correction options for certain people.
Q: Is laser eye surgery really safe and successful?
A: Yes, for patients who qualify, laser eye surgery can be a great option. 80% of patients who undergo laser eye surgery find their vision improved and no longer need to wear corrective lenses.
Q: How often should I visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist?
A: Ideally, an eye health examination should take place yearly. In general, it is important to monitor the eye health of children very closely. The eyes and the vision are developing from birth up through adolescence. Problems with nearsightedness typically worsen into the late teens and then stabilize so many adults in their twenties, thirties and forties don’t need much in the way of regular eye exams. When adults enter their fifties, however, it is important to have the eyes checked and going into the senior years, your optometrist or ophthalmologist is more likely to schedule visits on an annual basis.