Optometrists do much more than check and correct your
“Your doctor of optometry can be your primary eye care
provider,” says Dr. Aaron Patel, an optometrist with the
Alberta Eye Health Clinic in Edmonton.
Every year, Albertans visit emergency departments with
eye illnesses and concerns best treated by an optometrist,
Patel says. He recommends seeing an optometrist first if
you have an eye infection or injury or a sudden change in
vision such as blurriness or floaters.
Optometrists can prescribe medications or refer you to
the appropriate healthcare provider, if required. They also
care for eye health issues related to diabetes, glaucoma,
retinal disease and cataracts.
Since 2008, Alberta Health Services has covered
medically necessary eye exams through optometry offices.
This has helped reduce the load on emergency wards,
save healthcare dollars and allow people with eye issues
to be “better assessed by the right professional in a timely
manner,” Patel says.
He explains that optometrists are trained and accredited
to diagnose and treat your eyes. “Most people are
surprised to learn that we complete seven or eight years of
People typically go to an optometrist for vision exams
and corrective lenses. However, there’s more than meets
the eye when it comes to routine checkups. With their
increasingly high-tech tools, optometrists can detect the
early warning signs of diseases such as glaucoma, cancer,
hypertension, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
“The eyes,” Patel says, “provide a window into the
Testing can also show problems such as age-related
macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness
and vision loss in Canada, years before it appears. “The
advantage of testing is we can also talk about lifestyle
factors that can slow the progression of the disease, such
as protecting the eyes from sun and eating dark-green
vegetables for their antioxidants.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the Alberta Association
of Optometrists recommends infants have their first eye
exam between six and nine months.
Alberta Health* covers the cost of annual eye exams for Alberta children
18 years old and younger, and seniors 65 years and older. It also pays
for medically necessary and urgent care services such as eye infections
or injuries, sudden changes in vision and monitoring for diabetes issues,
glaucoma and retinal disease.
*Check with your doctor of optometry prior to your appointment to determine
if there are any additional costs.
Take your eye care to an optometrist
“The eyes provide a window into the body,” says Edmonton optometrist Aaron Patel. An eye exam
does more than test your vision—it could save your life.