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World of eye care can be confusing

Your eyes need health check-ups, too.

Your eyes need health check-ups, too.

But how do you navigate the world of optometrists, opticians and ophthalmologists? Most of us aren’t clear on who does what.

“It is a source of confusion in the public,” says Dr. Riaz Ahmed, an optometrist in Calgary.

Here’s how he explains it: Opticians are the people who sell you glasses and contact lenses, optometrists are your primary eye-care provider and ophthalmologists treat serious eye diseases and do eye surgery.

Ahmed recommends eye exams every two years for most adults. If you are young (under 19) or older (over 65), you should get an eye exam every year. A recent study that examined patterns among more than 130,000 Canadians found that only 40 per cent saw an eye-care provider in the previous year.

Make sure you go to someone who is qualified in eye health.

“If you go get an eye exam, make sure it is either with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist,” he says. “A sight test at an optician is not a full eye exam.”

Optometrists like Ahmed have been to university for a minimum of eight years. They do routine eye exams and deal with common eye problems such as infections or a foreign object in the eye.

They can manage, on a regular basis, eye problems resulting from diabetes or glaucoma.

An ophthalmologist has the most education, including a Bachelor degree, four years of medical school, plus a residency in the specialty.

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