Patient FAQs

Eye Exams & Vision Care

What is the difference between optometrist/ophthalmologist/optician?

An optometrist is a primary care provider who diagnoses, treats, and manages conditions related to your eyes and vision. An optometrist can prescribe glasses and contacts, as well as drugs and treatments for certain eye conditions.

An ophthalmologist is a physician who has received additional specialized training in surgery, as well as diagnosing and treating eye diseases. Patients are usually referred to an ophthalmologist by their optometrist.

An optician is a professional who fits and adjusts eyeglasses, contact lenses or subnormal vision devices based on a prescription provided by an optometrist or physician.

What should I expect from an eye exam?

What happens at an eye exam depends a little on your age, abilities and general health.

At most exams, the optometrist will note your health history, specifically related to eyes and vision, and will examine your eyes for any diseases or abnormalities. The optometrist will examine the way your eyes adjust to focus from near to far. The optometrist will also measure how sharp your vision is and if your eyes properly focus light – these things tell the optometrist if you are nearsighted or farsighted and how you measure up to 20/20 vision.

Why does my optometrist use eye drops?

Drops are not always used but can be part of many eye exams. There are different kinds of eye drops that may be used depending on your needs.

The most common drops are used to dilate your pupils, which helps the optometrist better see the inside of your eye. These drops can leave your eyes a little blurry and sensitive to light for a few hours, so you may not be able to drive immediately after this procedure.

Other drops are used to relax the focus of your eyes, which helps the optometrist take certain measurements. These drops are generally used in children and young adults and can also make the eyes blurry and sensitive to light.

Some drops are used to numb the eye and are used when the optometrist needs to touch your eye with a tool.

Finally, some drops contain a dye that helps the optometrist see abnormalities on the surface of the eye.

I hate the air puff thing. Is it necessary?

Although it’s unpleasant, the air-puff test is an important part of an eye exam. This test measures eye pressure and helps the optometrist determine your risk of developing glaucoma. If you cannot manage this test, talk to your optometrist to see if there are other ways to measure your eye pressure.

What information is included in a prescription?

A prescription for both glasses and contact lenses must include:

  • the prescriber’s name, practice address, telephone number and signature,
  • your name,
  • the date of the eye exam, and
  • all information that a licensed dispenser needs to make your glasses or fit the contacts.

A prescription will also include the power of each lens based on your specific condition: nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), blurred vision (astigmatism), or age-related need for reading glasses (presbyopia) – and may include additional information, such as magnifying power.

Contact lens prescriptions may also include information about a specific brand, material, size, or curvature of the lens depending on what you find most comfortable or is best suited to your condition.

Is there a difference between a prescription for glasses vs contact lenses?

Sometimes the strength of your contact lens prescription may be different from your glasses prescription because contact lenses fit closer to the eye.

Will my optometrist automatically give me a copy of my prescription, or do I need to ask for it?

Optometrists must provide patients with a copy of their glasses prescription once it is ready and the patient has paid all the fees. Contact lens prescriptions are available following a contact lens fitting, and once the patient has paid all of the fees.

If you have health conditions that affect your prescription, your optometrist may not be able to provide a prescription until your vision stabilizes.

Where can I fill my prescription?

You can fill your prescription with any licensed dispenser, which includes optometrists and opticians.

What do I need to know before buying glasses or contacts over the internet?

Buying glasses and contacts over the internet can be an efficient and cost-effective solution for some individuals. Whether it is the right choice for you will depend on your prescription, since prescription eyewear is highly individualized.

Before you buy online, talk to your optometrist about your individual needs. People with complex prescriptions or specific conditions may find it hard to get a good fit online, which can result in glasses that don’t work or, in some cases, vision problems. We strongly encourage you to work with a licensed dispenser (optometrist/optician) to be sure you’re getting the best fit.

Glasses

What is the PD measurement?

Pupillary distance (PD) is the distance between your pupils. It is one of the many measurements taken when glasses are being made and helps make sure your lenses are properly centered in the frames. PD is not typically measured at the time of an eye exam and may not always be a part of a prescription.

Do glasses prescriptions have an expiry date?

Yes! Your prescription can change over time thanks to aging and medical conditions like diabetes, blood pressure, and cataracts, among others. If your eyesight is likely to change, your optometrist may recommend that your prescription not be filled after a certain date.

Contact Lenses

What is a contact lens exam?

Contact lenses come in a wide variety of designs, materials and sizes. A contact lens exam, which measures the shape of your eye and how moist your eyes are, helps find the best lenses for your vision needs and comfort.

A contact lens exam usually happens after a routine eye exam, when the optometrist knows your overall eye health and prescription needs.

Contact lens exams may require additional tests and may include a fitting fee.

What if I just want contacts to change my eye colour?

Although cosmetic lenses are sold over the counter and do not correct vision problems, they can still cause vision problems, including irritation and infection, if not properly used and cleaned. Talk to your optometrist before using cosmetic lenses – they will be able to guide you on best materials, fit and cleaning routines.

Roles & Responsibilities

How do I know if I received good care?

You should expect that the care you receive meets the standards set by the College of Optometrists. Your optometrist must have the needed skills, knowledge and judgment to practice in Ontario. You should expect care that is professional, provides you with the information you need to make decisions about your health care, and respects the confidentiality of your health information.

If you receive glasses or contact lenses, you should be informed of the cost prior to the service being provided.

What if I suspect I didn't receive good care?

The first thing you should do is speak with your optometrist. If you’re unable to get an explanation or are not satisfied with the solution, contact the College. We can answer your questions and talk you through the formal complaints process.

What role do both patients and optometrists have in eye care?

Both you and your optometrist have a role to play in ensuring the best eye care. Learn more in our Partnership in Vision Care.

Is government assistance available for low-vision devices?

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care pays up to 75% of the cost of low-vision aids through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). Low-vision aids include handheld and glasses-mounted magnifying aids; high-power glasses or lenses; light filtering lenses; and technology such as large-print computers and text-to-voice technology.

Registered authorizers determine if you are eligible for coverage under this program. Some optometrists are both registered authorizers and approved vendors, meaning you can receive your ADP funding and vision services in one place. Learn more.