Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Doctor of Optometry?

As defined by the American Optometric Association: Doctors of Optometry are primary eye care professionals who examine, diagnose, treat, manage diseases, injuries and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

What education is required to become a Doctor of Optometry?

Doctors of Optometry attend college or a university to complete their undergraduate education.  They spend an additional four years at the graduate level studying the structure, function, and disorders of the eye to earn their doctoral degree.  Upon graduation and successfully passing rigorous national board and state board examinations, Doctors of Optometry become licensed to practice optometry.  Additionally, Doctors of Optometry are required to complete 50 hours of continuing education every two years in order to keep current in their profession.

Why did my medical doctor recommend that I see a Doctor of Optometry?

As Primary eye care providers, Doctors of Optometry are an integral part of the health care team.  They have the education and training to diagnose ocular manifestations of diseases that affect the body, such as hypertension and diabetes, and the diagnostic tools to detect and document numerous other diseases and conditions.

How often should I have my eyes examined?

Due to the many conditions that can affect the eyes, it is important to have annual eye exams.  Many people believe that if their vision is stable, they have no reason to have an eye exam.  During the course of a comprehensive eye examination, the doctor performs and evaluates the following: visual acuity, pupillary reflexes and visual fields (neurological evaluations), eye muscle coordination, the prescription to correct your refractive error (nearsighted, farsighted, etc), glaucoma screening test, cataract, optic nerve and retinal examination.

Anatomy of the Eye

Eye Terminology

Cornea: The clear, dome shaped surface in the front of the eye.  It is responsible for much of the refractive ability of the eye.

Sclera: The thick, white outer layer of the eye which serves as a protective layer.

Conjunctiva: The clear, highly vascular membrane which Covers the sclera.

Iris: The iris controls the amount of light that enters the eye. The color of the iris pigment determines eye color.

Crystalline Lens: The lens is a clear structure located behind the iris that is responsible for focusing.

Vitreous: The vitreous is a gel like substance that maintains the shape of the eye.

Retina: The retina is the tissue where light is focused in the back of the eye.  It is lined with special photoreceptors which translate light into signals to the brain.

Macula: The macula is a small, highly sensitive area of the retina used for detail, color, and central vision.

Optic Nerve: The optic nerve carries light signals from the retina to the brain.  The brain translates the light signals into the images that we see.

Visual Conditions

Myopia (Near-sightedness): is the condition of the eye in which a person can see well at near distances, but cannot see well in the distance.  This is typically due to the combination of a steep cornea and a longer than average eye length.

Hyperopia (Far-sightedness): is the condition in which a person can see well at far distances, but cannot see well at near distances.  This is typically due to the combination of a flat cornea and a shorter than average eye length.

Astigmatism: is a condition which affects vision at all distances.  It is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea which causes light to be focused at two different points on the retina yielding a blurry image.

Presbyopia: is a condition found in most adults over 40 years of age in which focusing ability is gradually reduced.  The focusing system loses its efficiency as the lens inside the eye becomes progressively thicker and harder to move, and the ciliary muscles which move it become weaker with time.

Eye Diseases and Conditions

Glaucoma: is a disease caused by an increase in the internal pressure of the eye. High eye pressure usually occurs due to increased production of aqueous humor, and/or reduced outflow due to narrowed passageways.  Prolonged high pressure in the eye can lead to permanent damage of the optic nerve and to permanent vision loss.  Although there is no cure for glaucoma, with early diagnosis and proper management, glaucoma can be controlled.  During the course of a routine eye examination, several glaucoma screening tests are performed.  It is highly recommended that those with a family history of glaucoma have annual examinations.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: is a disease caused by aging changes in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for detail vision.  As the disease progresses, central vision becomes blurred, distorted, and sometimes permanently lost.  At this time there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, but there are several promising treatments under investigation.  It is strongly recommended that people over 60 years of age have a comprehensive eye examination to screen for the early signs of this debilitating disease.

Diabetic Retinopathy: is one of the health problems associated with Diabetes.  Diabetic retinopathy is caused by the leaking of blood and protein into the retinal tissues.  As the disease progresses, the patient may experience blurry vision, dark spots, and an increase in floaters.  If left untreated, this disease can lead to blindness.  There are laser and other treatments available to slow the progression and preserve vision.  However, the best method to ensure maximum vision retention is prevention.  Annual or sometimes bi-annual exams are necessary for diabetic patients.

Cataracts: changes in the density and color of the crystalline lens inside the eye.  Depending on the size and location, normal vision may be affected. Cataracts usually develop after age 55, but do occasionally occur in infants or secondary to ocular trauma.  When a cataract becomes opaque enough that it is affecting daily activities such as driving and reading, the cataract is removed and a clear implant is put in its place.

Conjunctivitis: a bacterial or viral infection, or an allergic reaction in the conjunctiva. Symptoms include red watery eyes, a scratchy feeling, or sometimes a yellow, sticky discharge.  Bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis are treated with prescription eye drops.  Viral conjunctivitis is resolved by the body’s immune system. Due to the sometimes similar nature of the symptoms, it is imperative that conjunctivitis be evaluated in a timely manner by your eye doctor.