What is an optometrist?

An optometrist, or doctor of optometry, is a licensed, board-certified healthcare professional that provides first point of contact eye care services. They are trained to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases and disorders of the eyes. They can make an eye health assessment, offer clinical advice, prescribe medications for eye diseases and prescribe glasses.

Keep reading to learn more about this important profession and how our optometrists at Oscar Wylee provide high quality eye care services.

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Book a routine eye exam with a qualified optometrist near you.

Is an optometrist a medical doctor?

An optometrist is considered a doctor of optometry. They are not considered medical doctors. Optometrists are healthcare professionals that focus solely on eye care. They will have completed a Doctor of Optometry (OD) to become qualified to practise, and may often be referred to as an eye doctor.
Source: University of Waterloo

There are medical doctors that specialize in eye care. These professionals are called ophthalmologists.

Optometrist vs ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist, also known as an eye surgeon or ophthalmic surgeon, is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of serious eye conditions. These can include cataracts, injections for age related macular degeneration and end stage diabetic retinopathy. They are also licensed to perform eye surgery. An ophthalmologist will have completed medical school and several years of additional training in eye care. It is this education and level of expertise that separates an ophthalmologist from an optometrist.

An ophthalmologist is trained to provide more advanced care and perform surgery, whereas an optometrist is educated in primary, first contact vision care. Whilst they may perform minor eye procedures such as foreign body removal, they do not perform eye surgeries like an ophthalmologist.

An optometrist may refer their patient to an ophthalmologist for treatment if they detect an eye condition that requires more specialized care. You can find more on the differences between these two professions on our optometrist vs ophthalmologist page.

We do not provide ophthalmology services at Oscar Wylee.

Optometrist vs Optician

The primary role of an optician is to dispense glasses. You will likely see an optician working alongside an optometrist, but they will not have the same level of training or provide the same services. An optician will help fit frames for customers, give advice on the right lenses and manage the supply of glasses. They will not be able to conduct comprehensive eye exams like an optometrist, nor can they write prescriptions.

An optician will have to undergo training at an accredited institution before they are able to begin practice. This can take from a year to 3 years, depending on the study load undertaken.
Source: Opticians Association of Canada

Services provided: What does an optometrist do?

Optometrists are your first point of contact when it comes to eye care. This is also called primary vision care. At Oscar Wylee our optometrists are trained to provide a range of services to help you manage your eye health. These include:

  • Comprehensive eye exams to assess, measure and diagnose disorders of the eye and visual system. These can include infections, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and dry eyes.
  • They can write prescriptions for glasses.
  • Prescribe medications to treat eye conditions as needed.
  • Diagnose binocular vision problems such as strabismus (eye turn) and amblyopia (lazy eye).
  • Manage minor trauma such as corneal abrasion (scratch on the corneas), removal of foreign bodies (ie. metal pieces in the front of the eyes).
  • They may also identify undiagnosed systemic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and cancers that can first present symptoms in the eye.
  • They can co-manage ocular disease with ophthalmologists and provide referrals to ophthalmologists when needed.
  • Some optometrists can also co-manage pre and post operative care for laser vision correction.
If you need an eye exam, you can find your nearest Oscar Wylee optometrist on our store locator page.

Optometrist eye examinations: What to expect

An eye exam should not be uncomfortable or cause you any distress. It will involve a series of tests, first with an optical assistant and then with an optometrist. If you have any concerns, be sure to let our optometrists know and they can work with you to make sure you have a comfortable experience.

When you meet our Oscar Wylee optometrists for an eye exam, they will ask you for your medical and ocular history, family ocular history, any medications you may be on, or any vision related injuries or surgeries you have had. They will also ask you if you have any concerns about your eyes or vision. It is crucial that you answer these questions to the best of your ability so the optometrist can examine you accordingly.

The exact examinations carried out may vary slightly for each individual, depending on factors such as age or pre-existing eye or health conditions. It may include the following.
  • Visual acuity: To measure how clear and sharp your vision is.
  • Colour vision exam: This examination will assess how your eye sees colour, helping to diagnose things like colour blindness.
  • Pressure Test: This test is used to measure the pressure in your eyes. It may help with the diagnosis of some eye diseases including glaucoma.
  • Eye movements: To determine how well your eyes move together.
  • Refraction: To determine if you need a prescription for glasses and what the strength of the prescription is.
  • Retinal photography: To find out the condition of your retina, the layer at the back of your eye, your optometrist may use high resolution digital cameras to take a photo.
  • Slit lamp test: This test examines the structure of your eye, by placing it under a high magnification microscope. This test can help detect a wide range of eye conditions and diseases such as dry eyes, allergies, infections, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

When should you see an optometrist?

It is generally recommended that you see an optometrist routinely for your eye exam, at least every 1-2 years. Even if you feel your vision is clear, it is important to have this exam. Some conditions, such as glaucoma, can cause blindness without any symptoms so it is important to get your eyes checked routinely.

Beyond regular examinations, it is also important to see your optometrist if you have noticed any changes to your eyesight. These can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye strain
  • Flashes of light or floaters
  • Trouble reading small print or seeing far away objects
  • Squinting
  • Double vision

It is important to note that many of these symptoms will occur gradually, over time. If these symptoms come on abruptly or overnight, you should seek medical help.


How often should you get your eyes checked?

It is recommended that patients have their eyes examined every 1-2 years. For those with health conditions such as diabetes, more frequent eye exams may be required. Your optometrist will discuss how often you should get your eyes checked if you are unsure.
Source: Canadian Association of Optometrists

Ready to have your eyes examined?

Optometrist and eye exam costs

For all Oscar Wylee pricing, including the cost of eye exams, please see our price guide page. To help with the cost of your exam, Oscar Wylee Canada has direct billing available. Make sure to bring your health card to your appointment for any possible claims. Learn more about our costs and possible direct billing on our health insurance page.

How to become an optometrist

To become an optometrist in Canada, you first have to complete an undergraduate university degree in the sciences. You will then have to complete a Doctor of Optometry (OD). This is an additional 4 year program. The University of Waterloo and The Université de Montréal are the only two universities in Canada that provide this degree.
Source: University of Waterloo

Once graduated, some optometrists choose to undertake a residency to get additional hands-on experience. Before you begin practice, you are required to pass a national board examination and a provincial licensing examination. Every 3 years, Canadian optometrists are also required to complete a certain number of continued education hours to keep their license.

Oscar Wylee optometrists

First established in Australia, Oscar Wylee now has over 100 stores in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Our optometrists are committed to providing you with comprehensive, high quality eye care services. Book online or come into one of our Oscar Wylee stores to see our optometrists.

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