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These three health care providers differ in their training and what services they are permitted to provide. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor that specializes in vision and eye health. They are permitted to do eye examinations, write glass or drug prescriptions, and perform eye surgeries. Many ophthalmologists specialize in a particular eye disease or eye tissue, such as the cornea or retina. An optometrist is considered a primary eye care provider. During a routine eye examination, he/she examines vision, eye alignment, and eye health. Specifically, they are trained to measure and provide glass prescriptions, as well as dispense glasses and contact lenses. They also assess how well the eyes work together, looking for strabismus (“turned eye”) and other eye coordination problems that may cause symptoms such as eye strain, headaches, double-vision, or blurred vision. Optometrists also check the health of the eyes, screening for such things as glaucoma and retinal problems. They are able to write drug prescriptions for certain eye conditions, but may need to refer to an ophthalmologist for further treatment or surgery. An optician designs, fits, and dispenses glasses and contact lenses, using a prescription provided by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They are not permitted to perform eye examinations or provide prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses. However, they are able to provide advice on lens and frame selection. Some specialize in specific devices, such as prosthetic eyes.
Clues that your child may have a vision problem include: he/she is bumping into objects, squinting, rubbing the eyes a lot, tilting his/her head to see better, complaining of blurred vision or headaches, or if the parent observes an eye turn or unusual redness/discharge.
It is important that children have an eye examination early in life to avoid permanent vision loss.
Some children have very poor vision in one eye only, and so with both eyes open they appear to see very well. If treatment is begun at an early age, such as wearing glasses and/or patching of an eye, it is possible to reverse some or all of the vision loss in the poorer eye. If treatment is begun later in life, it may not be possible to recover lost vision.
A child does not need to be able to read or recognize letters to undergo an eye examination, as the optometrist can use easily recognizable pictures. Children can even undergo an eye examination if they are not yet speaking, as the optometrist is still able to assess eye health, eye coordination, and glass prescription without verbal responses from the child.
- The person is 0-19 years old or 65+ years old, or
- The person has one or more of the medical conditions deemed covered by OHIP (for example diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, keratitis, strabismus)
OHIP allows one complete eye examination per year, for those that qualify. They may be covered for additional visits if they have an eye condition requiring more frequent assessment, or if they have an eye injury or infection.
- Visual acuity
- Eye alignment (testing for strabismus ie “turned eye”)
- Eye motility and coordination
- Peripheral vision
- Pupil responses
- Refraction (measuring glass/contact lens prescription)
- Eye health (including examination of the external and internal structures of the eye)
- Eye pressure (when indicated)
- Colour vision (when indicated)
The results of these tests may prompt the optometrist to do additional tests, such as digital retinal photography, visual field testing, or stereoacuity (depth perception testing).
The examination will conclude with a discussion of the optometrist’s findings and recommendations. As well, you will be given an opportunity to ask questions.
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