Back to Health and Wellness

National Eye Exam Month: Guide for Your Next Visit

Posted on August 19th, 2020
National Eye Exam Month: Guide for Your Next Visit

You've been experiencing blurry vision and problems reading texts on your phone, so you’ve booked an appointment with your optometrist. Now what?  

This National Eye Exam month, brush up on what to expect at your next comprehensive eye exam, as well as considerations to keep in mind to promote the best eye health for yourself and your family.  

Who’s Who in the Field of Optometry 

Many Canadians know about the importance of regular eye exams and having proper eyewear. But not everyone is aware of the different roles that eye care professionals play to ensure their eyes remain healthy. We outline below the main professional distinctions of optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists and the roles they each play in a patient's eye care. 

Optometrist: A primary eye care provider who can conduct eye exams, write prescriptions, and treat eye diseases. 

Canadian optometrists require seven to eight years of training at a post-secondary institution before obtaining their professional designation as a Doctor of Optometry (also known as an OD). There are currently two schools of optometry in Canada: The University of Waterloo and the Université de Montréal. Here in Canada, optometrists are overseen by provincial/territorial boards that ensure all qualifications are up to date. National tests are also administered by the Canadian Examiners in Optometry to ensure that OD training meets the high level of care expected by Canadian patients. 

Optician: A fully trained vision care technician who specializes in fitting eyeglass lenses, frames, contact lenses, and other vision correction devices.  

In Canada, an optician is required to be licensed by an accredited ophthalmic institute, must be registered with a provincial regulatory agency, and must possess an ophthalmic dispensing license. Opticians are highly skilled in current eye care technologies and treatments for corrective lenses. Unlike an optometrist, though, they are not legally able to write prescriptions, or diagnose and treat eye diseases. Opticians and optometrists work hand-in-hand to ensure a patient’s vision needs are identified and corrected.  

Ophthalmologist: An eye doctor who is also licensed to assess vision and eye health, carry out surgical procedures, as well as offer pre- and post-operative eye care. 

In Canada, medical school graduates must complete a residency that's a minimum of five years before becoming an ophthalmologist. In the last two years of their residency, ophthalmologists will carry out extensive surgical training, and many doctors will continue on with a post-graduate residency for an additional one to two years to specialize in a particular vision component, such as the cornea, retina, or neuro-ophthalmology (how the eyes and brain work together). 

What to Expect During Your Eye Exam: The Phoropter 

If you've ever had an eye exam, chances are you've been up close and personal with a phoropter (even if you aren't exactly sure of its name). The device, which fits over your head and looks like a strange alien mask or a mechanical butterfly, has been a mainstay in optometrist offices around the world for decades. 

But what exactly is a phoropter and how does it work? More importantly, how does it help your vision? 

To answer those questions, you must first consider why it is used by eye doctors. By having you look through the phoropter at a visual reference (such as an image on a wall or an eye chart), your optometrist will rapidly test your sight by switching lenses until you find one that allows you to see the clearest. 

Phoropters offer objective findings when combined with tests, such a retinoscopy (which is particularly useful for young children and patients who cannot communicate well). As an alternative, a device known as an autorefractor automatically detects prescriptions. However, in some cases, the phoropter can be more accurate since automated devices sometimes over-accommodate prescriptions. 

Ultimately, the phoropter is a unique piece of medical equipment used by your eye doctor. It offers not only valuable insight into your vision but also allows you to take an important role in helping diagnose the overall health of your eyes. 

Children's Eye Exams are Important  

Doctors of Optometry Canada recommends infants have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age, and that children between the ages of 2 and 5 have at least one eye exam before starting school (or as soon as you notice any eye-related issues). Depending on what province you live in, children’s eye exams may be covered in full up to the age of 18. Check what your province provides on our blog

Between the ages of 2 and 5, your child's vision will develop at a rapid pace. During this period, you should be on alert for any symptoms that may indicate your toddler has a visual problem, including: 

  • Red, itchy, or watering eyes 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Squinting, eye rubbing, or excessive blinking 
  • Covering or closing one eye 
  • Holding objects too close 
  • Moving closer to the television 

If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to book an eye exam as soon as possible. Ensuring your infant or toddler's eyes are healthy early on will allow them to continue to see the world in the best way possible throughout the rest of their life. 

Time for an eye exam? Book an appointment today at your FYidoctors.