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What is an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a physician who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and visual system and in the prevention of eye disease and injury. They provide a full spectrum of care including routine eye exams, diagnosis and medical treatment of eye disorders and diseases, prescriptions for eyeglasses, surgery, and management of eye problems that are caused by systemic illnesses. Ophthalmologists can be medical doctors (M.D.) or doctors of osteopathy (D.O.).

What is the difference between an ophthalmologist and optometrist?

An optometrist is a Doctor of Optometry (OD) and is licensed to practice optometry, not medicine. The practice of optometry traditionally involves examining the eye for the purpose of prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, screening vision to detect certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases. An ophthalmologist is an Eye M.D. – either a medical or an osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists are specially trained to provide the full spectrum of eye care, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to treating eye diseases and injuries and performing complex and delicate eye surgery. Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research into the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision problems. An ophthalmologist is the only professional who can treat it all: eye diseases, injuries, and perform eye surgery. 

How often should I have an eye exam?

Contact lens wearers and Diabetics should have eye exams annually. Routine exams should happen every 2-3 yrs, but at age 55-60 they should be seen about every eighteen months to two years. Any other diagnoses or family history factors lead to necessity of more frequent follow up.

When should my child(ren) have their first eye exam?

All children should have a first eye exam by age 3 or 4 to screen for amblyopia (sometimes referred to as lazy eye syndrome). This screening is a vision test that is usually performed in a pediatrician´s office during a routine check-up. Once a screening has been performed, a complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist is recommended, should an abnormality be detected. Parents may be unaware of the development of amblyopia because the eyes may appear to have straight alignment. If not detected until after age 6,  amblyopia may be difficult or impossible to treat, but if detected in early childhood, it is easily treated by temporarily patching one eye.

Why does my Eye MD dilate my eyes?

A thorough examination of the back portion of the eye, which includes the macula, peripheral retina, and optic nerve, can only be adequately performed after the eyes are dilated. Without dilation, the pupils will constrict to a small size when a bright examining light is shown into the eyes. (Imagine examining the contents of a room through a keyhole. You could only see a small area of the inside of the room, unless the keyhole is enlarged.) Dilating drops both enlarge the size of the pupil and make the pupil non-reactive when bright light is shown into the eye. Common eye diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and various other eye diseases are best detected after the pupils are dilated.

Dilation will affect your ability to read up close for approximately two hours, sometimes longer in certain
individuals. Distance vision is generally not affected by dilation. The eyes may feel uncomfortable in bright light when eyes have been dilated, therefore temporary dark sunglasses may be offered after your examination. Optional reversal eye drops are available to lessen the effects of dilation for patients who need faster visual recovery.

What are lasers?

The word laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It is a highly focused, intense beam of a single color of light. Ophthalmologists (or Eye MDs), with special training, can use laser in a variety of ways such as treatment of certain diagnoses of cataracts, glaucoma, "wet" age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal holes, cosmetic surgery, and refractive surgery such as PRK and LASIK.

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