Patient FAQ

Some frequently asked questions about common eye-care issues, optometrists, and optometry.

Eyeglasses – Q & A

Please click here for questions related to buying eyeglasses on the Internet and other information related to eyeglasses.

Contact Lenses – Q & A

Please click here for questions related to Contact Lenses.

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

An optometrist is a doctor of optometry who examines patients in order to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent diseases and disorders of the eye and vision system and its related structures. An optometrist may also prescribe drugs for the treatment of eye conditions and provide, fit and adjust eyeglasses, contact lenses or subnormal vision devices for patients who require them.

An ophthalmologist is a physician who, upon graduation from medical school, undertakes several years of post-graduate training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye. As well as diagnosing and treating ocular disease either by medical or surgical means, ophthalmologists may offer oculo-visual assessment, which includes prescription for corrective lenses.

An optician provides, fits and adjusts eyeglasses, contact lenses or subnormal vision devices on the prescription of an optometrist or physician.

All three professions are governed by their respective Colleges under the authority of the Regulated Health Professions Act.

What do I do if I suspect I have not received adequate care from my optometrist?

If you suspect that you have not received adequate care, the first thing you should do is speak with your optometrist. If you are unable to obtain a satisfactory explanation or resolution, contact the College and we will assist you with answers to your questions or, if necessary, with the procedure for lodging a complaint.

Why does my optometrist use eye drops sometimes?

Eye drops that dilate the pupils, called mydriatics, are used in some examinations to enable the doctor to get a better view of the inside of the eye. How often this type of examination is necessary depends on the patient’s symptoms, age, health and family history. The drops generally leave your eyes a little blurry and sensitive to light, so you may not be able to drive immediately after this procedure. The effect of the drops wears off in 2 to 6 hours.

Eye drops that relax the focus of the eyes, called cycloplegics are used to accurately measure the degree of far-sightedness of the eyes. These are generally used for children and young adults. These drops also leave the eyes blurry and sensitive to light.

Eye drops to anesthetize (numb) the eye are used for procedures that require an instrument touching the eye. The anesthetic does not affect vision and lasts about 15 minutes. Some eye drops contain a dye that helps the doctor diagnose abnormalities of the surface of the eye.

What is the Partnership in Vision Care?

The Partnership in Vision Care is a document reviewed and revised by the College Council in September 2013 which articulates the collaborative nature of the relationship between optometrists and their patients. This collaboration is necessary to achieve and maintain optimum vision health. For more information, click here.

Is government assistance available for people who need low vision devices?

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provides assistance to consumers with impaired vision with the purchase of low vision aids through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). The Ministry will provide up to 75% towards the purchase cost of low vision devices to Ontario residents with impaired vision.

The Ministry has established guidelines for eligibility. Registered authorizers interpret the guidelines and determine eligibility. An eligible resident can then purchase these authorized aids from a registered vendor. The vendor will submit on the resident’s behalf up to 75% of the invoice amount to the Ministry of Health. Registrants with other programs (ODSP and Ontario Works) may be eligible for further coverage up to 100%.

Low vision devices include: hand held and spectacle mounted magnifying aids for distance and near; high power spectacle and contact lenses; specialized light filtering lenses to reduce glare, and high technology devices such as large print computers, electronic magnifiers and text to voice technology.

The program does not provide assistance toward the purchase of regular eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Some optometrists are both authorizers and vendors. This means you may be able to obtain all the required services, including ADP funding, from the same provider.

Am I entitled to a copy of my prescription after my eye examination?

If an eye examination results in a prescription, the prescription belongs to the patient and an optometrist must provide it to the patient. The first copy of a prescription is included as part of the fee for examination. An additional fee may be charged for duplicate copies of the same prescription.

A contact lens fitting exam and, in some cases, follow-up visits which are not covered by OHIP, may need to be performed in order to obtain the data necessary to create a contact lens prescription. A contact lens prescription must be issued upon the request of a patient when clinically appropriate and current contact lens fitting details are known.

A prescription may include a date after which the prescription should not be filled.

I hate that air-puff thing! Is it really necessary?

That “air-puff thing,” although mildly unpleasant, is an important test called non-contact tonometry (NCT). It provides a measurement of the internal fluid pressure of the eye. The doctor uses that information, along with other examination procedures to determine if you have glaucoma or have a risk of developing glaucoma. There are other methods of measuring the intra-ocular pressure which may be used if you cannot tolerate the “air-puff” or if your doctor prefers a different method.

How do I know that I am receiving good vision care?

Optometrists are regulated health professionals and must demonstrate the required knowledge, skill and judgment to become registered in Ontario. Further, they must demonstrate a commitment to continuing competence in order to maintain their registration. You should expect that the optometric care you receive meets the standards of practice. A complete examination will usually include the following components, although variations may occur because of a patient’s age, abilities, and general health and eye conditions:

  • a health history with emphasis on eyes and vision, including vision needs;
  • measurement of visual acuity (for example 20/20);
  • measurement of refractive error (for example far-sightedness, near- sightedness, astigmatism);
  • determination of the alignment of the eyes;
  • determination of the way the eyes adjust focus from distance to near;
  • examination of the eyes for any disease or abnormalities;
  • a diagnosis from the results of the examination;
  • recommendations for any treatment required, which may include referral to another health care provider;
  • provision of a prescription or treatment plan for vision correction if required; and
  • any counseling or advice that is necessary, including need for future vision care.

You should also expect that optometric care is provided in a manner that maintains the confidentiality of your health information and provides you with the information and freedom you need to make informed decisions about your health care. If you receive treatment services such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, you should expect to be informed of the cost prior to the provision of the service and you should expect the cost of materials to be indicated on your receipt. In the end, you should be satisfied that the care you receive has been appropriate for you.