Frequently Asked Questions 


What Is an Ophthalmologist? 

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor and surgeon, specializing in medical and surgical eye care. Ophthalmologists typically complete an undergraduate University degree, followed by medical school, then five further years of residency training. Many go on to complete one to two or more years of subspecialty fellowship training. As surgeons and medical doctors, they are extensively trained to provide comprehensive eye exams, deliver laser and surgical eye care procedures, order laboratory and imaging investigations, prescribe a broad spectrum of medications, and collaborate with other medical and surgical subspecialties.

When Should I See an Ophthalmologist? 

You should see an ophthalmologist when you experience any of the following: 

  • Sudden changes in your vision, including double vision, blurry vision, wavy lines, and haloes around lights 
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Changes in your field of vision, including shadows, black spots & curtain like shadows 
  • Changes in you colour vision 
  • Physical changes in your eyes, including crossed eyes, eye pain, redness, or discharge

How Do I Get Referred to See an Ophthalmologist? 

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors and surgeons. If you are looking for an ophthalmologist in Alberta, you will need a referral from a medical doctor or optometrist.

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

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor and surgeon specializing in treating eye disease and promoting ocular health. Ophthalmologists typically complete an undergraduate University degree, followed by medical school, then five further years of residency training. Many go on to complete one to two or more years of subspecialty fellowship training. When you need eye surgery, require a complex eye examination, or need treatment of a complex eye condition, you should see an ophthalmologist. 

An optometrist is a primary eye care provider who assists with examining, diagnosing, treating, and preventing eye disease. Optometrists are also trained to provide glasses and contact lens prescriptions.  

An optician is a technician trained to fit and provide glasses, contacts, or other sight-enhancing devices. Opticians complete a 2-year college degree.

Eye Health

How Often Should I Have an Eye Exam? 

You should have a regular diagnostic eye exam performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist every two to three years. This also depends on your age and whether you have chronic eye problems. Once you are over 50 years of age, you should have an eye exam annually.

How Do I Avoid Eye Injury? 

Eye injuries are commonly caused by debris flying into the eyes or blunt force during sports. When you are working or dealing with any activity that may pose a risk to your eyes, make sure to wear appropriate eye protection, such as safety goggles. Some high-risk activities include grinding metal in the workshop or playing squash. Appropriate eye protection is critical to preventing eye injuries.

What Do I Do When I Have an Eye Injury? 

Eye injuries are quite common and can range from small scratches to chemical burns and vision loss. Even if you feel an eye injury is minor, you should see an eye doctor to get it assessed. Eye injuries can be extremely serious, and it is better to err on the side of caution. If you notice anything unusual about your eyes, including pain, difficulty seeing, a cut/torn eyelid, blood layered in front of your iris, or unusual pupil sizes, see an eye doctor immediately.

What Are Cataracts? 

Cataracts are cloudiness of the eye’s lens as a result of aging, or other factors like injury or certain medications. The cloudiness causes worsened vision. 

Eyeglasses or contact lenses can help clear up your vision with early-stage cataracts. However, if the cataract is affecting your vision enough to affect your daily lifestyle, you may need cataract surgery. See an ophthalmologist if you are experiencing cloudiness in your vision.

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy? 

When you have diabetes, your body does not use or store glucose properly. This can cause damage to your retina’s blood vessels over time, leading to bleeding and other changes inside the eye, which can cause vision loss. It is essential to see an ophthalmologist when you have chronic conditions like diabetes that may affect the eye. Frequent visits will help to catch and treat diabetic retinopathy early. 

What Is Glaucoma? 

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve that damages the optic nerve’s fibres, causing narrowing of your peripheral visual field and vision loss. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting the images you are viewing from your eye to the brain. In the treatment of glaucoma, the aim is to protect the optic nerve by lowering the eye pressure. Often patients with glaucoma are asymptomatic and diagnosis is made only after seeing an eye doctor. If you are experiencing vision loss, it is important to see an ophthalmologist.

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)? 

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common reasons for poor vision for those over 60. AMD causes loss of vision in the central part of your field of vision. It occurs when the “seeing cells” in the macula break down or deteriorate. 

There are two types of AMD, dry and wet AMD. Dry AMD is more common, and there are several promising clinical trials for potential drug treatments in the future. Wet AMD is more severe and can lead to quick vision loss. Treating wet AMD quickly is essential. An ophthalmologist will inject your eye with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor drugs to stabilize your eyes. Having an eye exam regularly after 50 years of age is crucial, as it will help you identify AMD sooner and help avoid further vision loss.