You may be aware that there are three types of eye doctors, optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians. What you may not be aware of is what exactly an optometrist is and what they can do. Optometry is a health care specialization that involves caring for the eyes and related structures, like the upper eyelids. Today, our experts at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA are answering the most frequently asked questions about eye doctors.
Optometry FAQs Answered
Can Optometrists Write Prescriptions?
Yes, optometrists can write prescriptions. In Georgia, optometrists can prescribe Class II to Class V medications for the treatment of eye diseases. However, you should understand that optometry are not medical doctors and do not attend medical school. They earn their OD degree after at least three years of college and four years attending an optometry school.
Can Optometrists Perform Surgery?
Yes, optometrists can perform surgery. However, they cannot perform as many surgeries as ophthalmologists due to the differences in education and training. For instance, an optometrist can perform LASIK eye surgery to correct such refractive errors as:
Can an Optometrist Treat Dry Eye Syndrome?
Yes, you can go to an optometrist for the treatment of dry eyes, sometimes referred to as keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Most of the time, this condition can be treated with prescription lubrication drops, sometimes called artificial tears. This medication decreases inflammation affecting the ocular surface.
However, in some cases, prescription eye lubricants aren’t sufficient. If you suffer from chronic dry eyes, you may need a tear duct plug to block your tear ducts. Also, it is not uncommon for glasses to be recommended to protect the eyes. If your dry eyes are caused by an extreme immune response, your best relief option may be an immunosuppressive drug.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?
One of the most common symptoms of dry eye syndrome is eye discomfort. Other symptoms of dry eye syndrome include eye pain, eye redness, extreme light sensitivity, and feeling like you have something in your eyes.
What Is the Difference Between Optometry and Ophthalmology?
To reiterate, optometry is the study and care of the eyes and eyelids. Ophthalmology also requires learning about the eyes and surrounding structures.
When Should a Child Get a Complete Eye Exam?
It is highly advisable to bring your child in for an eye exam when they are six months old. If their pediatrician is concerned about their vision, bring them in before they turn six months.
When Should I Schedule an Appointment With an Optometrist?
Typically, it is advisable to schedule an optometrist appointment every two to three years if you are between the ages of 20 and 39. It is not common for people who are this age to experience very rapid or sudden vision loss. However, if you have a high risk of vision loss, it is highly advisable to schedule eye exams every year or two. Factors that would put you into a high-risk category include:
- A family history of eye disease
- A history of eye injury
- A history of eye surgery
- Taking drugs that affect vision
- Wearing contacts or glasses
How Often Should I See an Optometrist if I’m in My 50s?
If you are between the ages of 40 and 64, you should strongly consider meeting with your optometrist for checkups every year or two. Around the age of 35, the lens of your eye starts to harden slowly. After five or 10 years, there is a good chance that your lenses have hardened enough that your near vision is seriously affected. If you have noticed reading getting increasingly difficult, you may suffer from presbyopia.
In addition to having a high risk of developing presbyopia when you’re in your 40s, 50s, or early 60s, you are also more likely to suffer from medical conditions that cause vision loss. For instance, people in their 50s are far more likely to suffer from hypertension or type 2 diabetes. They are also more likely to take prescription medications with side effects that affect vision.
How Often Should I See an Optometrist if I’m in My 70s?
If you are 65 years of age or older, it is extremely important that you come in for an optometrist appointment every year. If you developed presbyopia when you were younger, it has probably progressed to the point that your quality of life is seriously affected. You may have received a prescription for reading glasses and now struggle to read even with your glasses on.
Annual eye exams are also important for seniors because they are much more likely to develop cataracts. Even worse, seniors are more likely to suffer from medical conditions that lead to vision loss. Some of the most significant vision risk factors for seniors include:
- A family history of cataracts
- A family history of glaucoma
- A family history of macular degeneration
- A history of eye surgery
- A history of eye trauma
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
What Happens During a Complete Eye Exam?
A complete eye exam is far more thorough than a vision test. This comprehensive exam takes between 90 and 120 minutes to complete. It starts with reviewing your health history and family health history to identify risk factors for developing eye conditions. It also involves talking about your lifestyle, because your lifestyle choices can affect your risk of vision loss in the future.
For instance, if you’re a smoker, your risk of future vision loss increases significantly. This is because smokers are more likely to have high blood pressure. High blood pressure often leads to heart disease, and heart disease can lead to vision loss. Once your family health history, personal medical history, and lifestyle have been reviewed, you will take:
- A vision test
- A refraction test
- An eye focusing and teaming test
What Can I Expect During My Vision Test?
We use the Snellen Eye Chart to conduct our vision tests. You will be instructed to stand 20 feet in front of a chart with letters on it. Then, you will read the letters on the chart with one eye covered. Next, you will read the letters on the chart with the other eye covered. Finally, you will read the letters on the chart with both eyes open.
Why Is a Refraction Test Necessary?
A refraction test is required when your vision is not 20/20, because it can help identify your refractive error. For instance, this test can tell us whether your vision problem is caused by astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness, or another type of error.
Depending on the severity of your refractive error, you may need prescription lenses to get you closer to 20/20 vision. To determine the prescription we need to write to improve your vision, we may use such diagnostic tools as autorefractors and retinoscopes.
Can I Drive Myself to My Complete Eye Exam?
If possible, have someone drive you to your complete eye exam. If you have never had your pupils dilated before, it is extremely important to have someone drive you to your appointment. If you don’t have a loved one to take you, call a taxi or rideshare service. It is not advisable to drive after your pupils have been dilated because your vision will be blurry, and you will experience extreme glare from sunlight until the medication has worn off.
If you don’t have sunglasses to wear while driving, you will have trouble seeing, and it won’t be safe for you to drive. If you feel that you have no other option besides driving yourself to your complete eye exam, strongly consider waiting for the medication to wear off. This can take four to six hours, but it will be much safer for you and everyone else on the road.
Learn More Today
optometry can write prescriptions, perform eye-related procedures, diagnose eye conditions, and more. If you are between the ages of 20 and 39, you should see an optometrist every two to three years to ensure you are free from eye problems. As you age, you should strongly consider coming in once every year or two. Contact us today at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA to schedule your complete eye exam and mitigate your risk of future vision loss.