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March 11, 2010

Ophthalmologist or Optician: Can You See the Difference?

Who you should see to prevent glaucoma

It's an important distinction to keep in mind. An optician can test your vision and give you glasses. An ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat eye conditions.

An eye examination is different from an eye test, which you can get from an optician before purchasing glasses. While an eye test may be able to point out concerns that indicate glaucoma - losing peripheral vision can be a clue that further testing needs to be done - an eye examination can measure intraocular pressure, the thickness of your cornea and drainage angles. An ophthalmologist can look at the back of your eye and see if there has been any damage to your optic nerve.

"There's nothing wrong with going to optometrists for eye exams. If there's something more you need they can send you to see someone else," says Pam Adolph, Opthamology Outreach Nurse, Opthamology Program at Misericordia Health Centre. "We recommend the standard yearly visit. If you have ongoing conditions with your eye, you may need to be seen more often. People who have risk factors, particularly diabetics, should have more frequent examinations."

People with glaucoma can function quite normally - drive their cars and go to work - if their glaucoma is caught early enough. Left untreated, a person with glaucoma will lose their vision.

In her role as Opthamology Outreach Nurse, part of Pam's job is to educate people about eye health. She has these important things to keep in mind about eye health and eye safety:

  • Keep health care professionals informed. Tell your eye doctor about the medications you're on. If you're diagnosed with glaucoma this is particularly important so they don't conflict. Tell your family doctor if you're taking glaucoma medication.

  • Have your eyes checked regularly.

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's rays.

  • Keep eye safety in mind - wear safety goggles when you're cutting grass, doing home renos or working on your car.

  • Flush your eye immediately if you get something in it.

  • Be aware of any changes to your vision. If you are seeing black spots, things are blurry or you see flashing lights, don't wait for an eye exam to have it checked out. Book an appointment and have your eyes checked.

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