Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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

  • An ophthalmologist is a doctor – an M.D. – with expertise in medical and surgical eye problems who performs operations on the eyes.
  • An optometrist is a health care specialist who assists patients with the health of the eyes and related vision. Optometrists are trained to prescribe and fit lenses to improve vision. They also diagnose and treat various eye diseases.
  • An optician is a specialized practitioner who designs, fits and dispenses lenses for the correction of a person's vision. Opticians determine the specifications of various ophthalmic solutions – from prescription, to eyeglass frames, to lens technology – that will give the necessary and best correction to a person's eyesight.

2. Can all three – ophthalmologist, optometrist and optician – perform an eye exam?

Only an ophthalmologist and an optometrist can perform a comprehensive eye exam.

3. Why is a regular eye exam so important?

Regardless of your age or physical health, a comprehensive eye exam is important for detecting any eye problems at their early stages. Even if you have 20/20 vision, an eye exam can be a measure of overall health. The eyes are the only part of the body where arteries and veins can be viewed without having to perform surgery. Eyecare providers can see signs of stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis and more, through an eye exam.

In addition, they can determine whether a person with age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa or cataracts is suffering also from low vision, which is a condition associated with these age-related eye diseases.

4. What happens during an eye exam?

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will not only determine if you require a prescription for eyeglasses, but they will also check your eyes for common eye diseases, assess how your eyes work together as a team and evaluate your eyes as indicators of your overall health. For more information on eye exams, visit

5. What is digital eye strain and what are the common symptoms associated with it?

Digital eye strain is the discomfort many individuals feel after looking at a digital screen for longer than two hours at a time. According to a survey by The Vision Council, many American adults report experiencing eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain after prolonged screen use. For more information, check out The Vision Council's resources on digital eye strain, symptoms and solutions.

6. What options are available for relieving symptoms of digital eye strain?

Eyewear is available with specialized lenses featuring digital eye strain-reducing capabilities. The Vision Council recommends individuals and their child(ren) visit a local eyecare provider to discuss their digital habits and what eyewear solutions are available to relieve the symptoms of digital eye strain.

In addition to eyewear solutions, there are simple changes you can make in your daily digital device usage to relieve some of the symptoms you may be experiencing, including: reducing overhead lighting to eliminate screen glare; positioning yourself at an arm's length distance from the screen; increasing text size on devices to better define content on the screen; and continuously taking breaks from looking at digital screens and focusing on something in the distance to relax the eyes, commonly known as the 20-20-20 rule.

7. What does the eye chart actually measure?

One of the basic measurements most everyone is familiar with is the Snellen chart for 20/20 vision – a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet.

With 20/20 vision, individuals can see at 20 feet clearly what should be seen normally at that distance. Most individuals ought to visit a low vision specialist when vision reaches 20/70 or worse. With 20/70 vision, an individual must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 70 feet. Any vision loss interfering with one's visual needs mandates a visit to an eyecare provider and a request for help.

8. What are ultraviolet (UV) rays and what damage can they cause to the eyes?

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are emitted by the sun in three forms: UVA, UVB and UVC. While UVC is absorbed by the earth's atmosphere, UVB radiation is only partially blocked, and UVA radiation is not blocked at all and can burn the skin and eyes, as per the World Health Organization. According to a survey by The Vision Council, American adults report experiencing the following symptoms after prolonged UV exposure: irritation in the eye; trouble seeing; wrinkles around the eyes; red or swollen eyes; sunburn of the eyelids and eye; and, in some cases, cancer on or around the eyes.

The Vision Council encourages everyone to wear UV-protective eyewear whenever they're outdoors during daylight hours, no matter the season or weather, as UV rays are always present. Adults and children should have a comprehensive annual eye exam, as an eyecare provider can make recommendations regarding UV-protective eyewear tailored to an individual's vision and lifestyle needs. For more information, check out The Vision Council's resources on UV eye protection.

9. What is the difference between reading glasses and prescription glasses?

Reading glasses and sun reading glasses – also called readers – are ready-to-wear glasses with a lens power, magnification or strength, typically ranging from +1 to +4, to aid with up-close reading. They are a great option for those who don't mind slipping on a different pair of glasses for up-close viewing, or those who only require one prescription. Similarly, readers for outdoor use are available, offering protection against the sun's harmful UV rays. Both are available "over-the-counter" without a prescription or Rx from your eyecare provider. On the contrary, prescription glasses are only available with an individualized lens prescription or Rx. No matter the state of your eye health, make sure to visit your eyecare provider to ensure you're getting the right eyewear for your unique eyecare needs. For more information, check out The Vision Council's resources on choosing the right glasses.