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

Opticians have a three-year college diploma. These professionals are trained to dispense, adjust and replace your visual prescription. Whether you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, they can guide you when you need to choose from the numerous options available to you, so that you get the very best vision possible and a product that suits your needs.

Optometrists are the front-line specialists who perform complete eye exams, fit contact lenses and screen for eye diseases. Having completed a five-year university program, they can also treat ocular infections and minor pathologies by prescribing the appropriate ophthalmic medication.

Ophtalmologists are medical specialists. They hold a medical degree with a specialization in ocular health. Although they can test your vision, their main focus is eye health. They treat diagnosed diseases with medication or through surgery. Their approach is medical. They may also refer cases to colleagues with an even more specific specialty (e.g. specializing in strabismus, the cornea, glaucoma, cataracts, the retina, or inflammatory diseases).

At what age should we start getting eye exams? And how often afterwards?

Children should be taken to see an optometrist as soon as they show any sign of a visual complaint, or if they behave in a way that makes you suspect they have a vision problem. Optometrists use drawings and objective tests to identify visual disorders in children as of the age of three.

Afterwards, it is recommended that children get an eye exam before they start kindergarten, in order ensure their visual system is functioning properly, as this has a major impact on their school learning.

As the body grows, so do the eyes. Vision can therefore change over time, so an annual exam is strongly recommended. In addition, no one is immune to eye diseases or complications, and some conditions develop without any noticeable symptoms. Getting your eyes checked every year means you can enjoy the best possible vision and eye health.

Can I wear contact lenses?

There is no specific age where you can start wearing contact lenses. However, you need to be able to put them in, take them out, and be responsible when it comes to cleaning and storing them.

Contact lens manufacturers offer such a wide selection of optical parameters nowadays that we can now correct the great majority of vision problems, from high myopia to hypermetropia and astigmatism. The latest bifocal contact lens technologies, which feature multiple reading segments, mean that even progressive lens wearers can enjoy contact lenses!

For any type of lens, it is essential to first undergo a fitting with diagnostic contact lenses. This trial allows us to ensure proper comfort, vision and fit.

When buying prescription lenses, do I need an anti-reflective/scratch-resistant coating?

Getting the best possible vision does not solely depend on your lens prescription. The various treatments now available maximize the performance of corrective lenses by increasing their transparency, thereby producing an image that is as natural as possible.

Anti-reflective coatings increase the lens’ light transmission while reducing the reflection on its surface. This shows off the beauty of your eyes. The coating also helps reduce visual fatigue. The scratch-resistance, for its part, protects your investment by keeping your lenses scratch-free – and therefore clearer – longer.

Do I need polarized lenses in my sunglasses?

Polarized lenses eliminate blinding reflections produced by the reflective objects or surfaces to which we are exposed every day. They are therefore highly recommended!

What is myopia?

Myopia (nearsightedness) usually manifests in early adolescence, causing blurred distance vision. In some cases, it is due to an elongated eyeball, while in others it is the result of a more curved corneal surface. The image is produced in front of the retina, so a divergent lens (negative strength) is required for the focus to occur directly on the retina, which produces clear vision

What is hypermetropia?

Hypermetropia (farsightedness) can develop at any age and usually increases over time. In this case, the focal point is behind the retina, usually as a result of the eyeball being too short. A convergent lens (positive strength) is used to bring the image closer and onto the retina. Depending on the degree of farsightedness, and with an accommodation effort, persons with hypermetropia can have relatively clear eyesight. They may experience ocular fatigue and headaches, however

What is astigmatism?

An astigmatic eye focuses in two different places. This can occur in persons with myopia or hypermetropia. The image perceived is lengthened or distorted at every distance.

What is presbyopia?

This condition usually develops in our forties and it mainly affects near vision. The problem is not related to the shape of the eye, but rather to a loss of flexibility in the eye’s various structures (crystalline lens and ciliary muscles). This flexibility decreases gradually until individuals reach their sixties, so presbyopia progresses until that age. Presbyopes need convergent lenses (positive strength) in order to obtain clear intermediate and near vision.

What is macular degeneration?

With macular degeneration, ageing causes the impairment of the macula (the portion of the central retina used for reading or recognizing small details). The retinal structures that make up the macula begin to deteriorate, leading to a loss of functional vision. You will therefore notice problems reading or making out small details.

What are cataracts?

A cataract is the opacification of the eye’s crystalline lens, which leads to reduced vision at every distance (i.e. for distance vision as well as for reading).

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease in which intraocular pressure damages the optic nerve and therefore eventually reduces your vision and visual fields. Because it causes no symptoms, this insidious condition does not affect your vision in the first few years. Contrary to popular belief, glaucoma is generally painless! In most cases, vision loss only occurs in later stages.

How do I know if I have cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma?

These eye diseases affect your vision and eye health in different ways. Their symptoms can vary greatly from one patient to another, and the only way to diagnose them is through a complete eye exam. Your optometrist will be able to identify your specific situation by performing a differential diagnosis. Be vigilant and get regular check-ups!

For more information on optometry, refer to the DOCTORS OF OPTOMETRY website provided by the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
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