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Questions to ask your eye doctor

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Wondering what questions to ask your eye doctor during your upcoming exam? Glad you asked! We’ve got answers. 

Questions to ask include why is your vision blurry, why did your prescription change and do you need glasses, contact lenses or vision surgery.

To make the most of your eye exam, ask yourself a few questions before your eye doctor visit. For example, have you noticed any changes or problems with your vision, such as are you having trouble seeing when driving at night?

Tell your eye doctor about any recent vision issues. 

This will help your eye doctor to diagnose and treat any eye condition. 

Asking thoughtful questions will help you get the most out of your eye exam, plus what you ask isn’t important only to you. The questions you ask during your visit will provide your eye doctor added insight into your sight concerns, eye health and any other needs you may have.

 Pro tip: Writing down your questions helps you remember what you want to ask.

READ MORE: How to choose an eye doctor

Here are a few suggestions to get you started plus some basic information to help bolster the discussion with your eye care professional:

  • What does 20/20 mean?

  • Why did my prescription change?

  • Should I get glasses, contacts or have vision surgery?

  • Should I get computer glasses?

  • What happens during an eye exam?

  • Why do I need to see an ophthalmologist or retinal specialist?

What does 20/20 mean?

If you have 20/20 vision, it means you can clearly see something from 20 feet away that should be clear at that distance. If you need to be 20 feet from the movie screen to clearly see what others can see at 100 feet, you would have 20/100 vision.

Having 20/20 vision isn’t the only thing important to your eye health, because it is only one measure. 

A comprehensive eye exam will include tests to measure your eyes' ability to work together and separately, to focus, to see color, to perceive depth and to view things at close range. 

An eye exam also helps your eye doctor to screens for diseases, and a routine check of your vision can even detect conditions you may not associate with your eyes such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Why did my prescription change?

Your eyes change throughout your life. As a baby, your eyes were about 80% the size of your adult eyes. 

Your eyes grow as you grow until sometime between ages 18 and 21. 

When you hit age 40, your eyes may naturally lose some ability to focus. As you get older, other conditions (presbyopia, for example) may impact vision health and the amount of vision correction you need. 

Change happens. In fact, change is more common than your eyesight staying the same. It is for this reason that contact lens and eyeglass lens prescriptions typically expire a year after they are written.

Should I get glasses, contacts or have vision surgery?

The answer to this question largely relies on personal preference and considerations specific to your lifestyle. 

Glasses are easy: Wipe them with a clean, soft cloth; put them on. Sometimes they’re the more affordable option. They can be a fashion statement. 

Contact lenses are a better choice if you think you look better without glasses. Contacts also offer a more natural vision adjustment — including better peripheral vision — without obstruction. This makes them great for sports and outdoor activities. Bonus? With color contacts you change the color of your eyes. 

Contact lenses also require more care, including attention to cleanliness to avoid risk of an eye infection. They may not be best if you spend a lot of time using a computer. 

If tossing your glasses or no longer dealing with contact lens care is appealing, vision surgery may be attractive. There are drawbacks, starting with costs averaging nearly $2,250 per eye for LASIK. 

Not everyone is a good LASIK candidate: Growing, diseased or damaged eyes may disqualify you for surgery. 

And even after vision surgery, if you are over 40, you may still need reading glasses

What’s the best vision correction option for you -- glasses, contacts or vision surgery? The best option will become clear with some questions, research and conversation with your eye doctor. 

Should I get computer glasses?

Digital devices can leave your vision blurry or your eyes tired or red. You may even suffer from headaches. Experienced together, these conditions may be evidence of digital eye strain (also often called computer vision syndrome).

Routine use of computers and other devices leaves nearly 60% of people with some symptoms of digital eye strain. Computer glasses can help because they filter some blue light as well as make it easier to focus at that 20- to 26-inch distance from a computer monitor.

Do you need computer glasses? Maybe not. Start with an eye exam, though, because eye strain can be aggravated if your prescription is even a little off. Taking breaks from your devices, improving the lighting where you are working, reducing glare and/or adjusting your monitor can also help.

What happens during an eye exam?

An eye exam is part conversation, part education and a lot of examination. 

Formulating questions before your exam helps the conversation and education portions of your visit. 

The exam itself is mainly to protect your vision and head off any threats to your eye health, but your eye doctor can also detect high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke risk, some cancers and other health issues. 

Your exam will likely include the familiar E-F-P-T-O-Z eye chart test for vision acuity, as well as tests for peripheral vision, depth perception, color blindness and glaucoma, plus screening for other conditions.

Why do I need to see an ophthalmologist or retinal specialist?

Most of your eye care needs can be ably handled by an optometrist, but if a specialized condition or surgery is required, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist or retinal specialist.

Eye diseases or conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts may require treatment by one of these medical professionals who have the appropriate advanced training.

Some other important questions to ask

You may want to ask about your risk for eye disease, what to watch out for or how you can keep your eyes healthy. 

You should discuss any vision changes since your last visit, bring up your specific condition(s) or ask for guidance in better understanding how your eyes work. 

You may want to ask about protective gear for your eyes. 

During your eye exam is also a great time to ask about the vision of your child, teen, partner or older family member.

Remember, the only question you will regret that you didn’t ask your eye doctor is the one you don’t ask.

READ NEXT: 10 key questions to ask your child's eye doctor

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