Questions to Ask Your Eye Care Specialist
First, Make Sure You Have Prepared for Your Eye Exam
The VisionAware Peer Advisors have compiled a list of practical suggestions, based on their own experiences, to help you prepare for your visit to your eye care specialist.
Take a Friend or Relative with You
- It’s a good idea to have a friend or relative accompany you whenever you visit an eye care specialist or any other health care provider. This person can be your memory jogger and remind you about questions you want to ask. Also, since your eyes will be dilated for the examination, you may need a driver and a pair of sunglasses to help with the glare and light sensitivity that can result from dilation.
- [Note: In a comprehensive dilated eye examination, your doctor may use eye drops to see inside your eye more clearly and examine your retina and optic nerve.]
- Your friend can also take notes about the information the doctor gives you. In this way, you can concentrate on what is being said and ask additional questions that arise from these discussions.
- Your friend can also be emotional support if you’re feeling stressed or nervous about your appointment or eye condition. Often, just the presence of a close friend or relative can help you feel more at ease and relieve the anxiety associated with occasional long waiting times before the doctor sees you.
Be Sure to Take Notes
- When you make your appointment, ask if you can bring a recorder to help you remember the information he or she shares with you.
- This way, you’ll be able to review conversations that took place during your appointment at a time when you feel more relaxed in the comfort of your own home.
- If the doctor does not want to be recorded, ask if he or she can write down your diagnosis, including what, if any, further action you need to take.
Here are some suggestions for questions you can ask during your eye examination:
- Can you go over the eye examination with me and tell me what tests to expect?
- What is the cause of my vision loss?
- What is my visual acuity?
- Do I have a peripheral (side vision) field loss?
- Is my condition stable, or can I lose more sight?
- Do I qualify as legally blind? If so, what does legally blind actually mean?
- What new symptoms should I watch out for?
- Are there treatments for my eye condition?
- When should the treatment start and how long will it last?
- What are the benefits of this treatment and how successful will it be?
- What are the risks and possible side effects associated with this treatment?
- Are there food/drugs/activities I should avoid while undergoing this treatment?
- If the treatment involves taking medication, what should I do if I miss a dose or have a reaction?
- Are other treatments available?
- What kind of tests are involved?
- What do you expect to find out from these tests and when will I know the results?
- Do the tests carry any risks or side effects?
- Will more tests be necessary later?
- Will you send the test results to my primary care physician?
- How often will you schedule follow-up visits? Should I be monitored on a regular basis?
- Am I still safe to drive?
- Am I entitled to any special services or benefits?
- What medical and rehabilitation resources are available to help me?
- Will a low vision examination help? How does that differ from a comprehensive eye exam?
Persevere with Your Questions!
- Ask the question again.
- Tell the doctor or technician that you didn’t fully understand.
- Ask if the doctor has literature that you can take home to read and share with your family.
- Remember that the more you know about your vision, the better able you are to seek appropriate solutions, support, and benefits.
Ask How You Can Protect Your Eyes
- Talk with your eye doctor about protecting your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) and blue light. When you go outside, wear absorptive sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to reduce your UV exposure. Ask if there are special sunglasses or tints you should try with your particular type of eye condition.
- If you are thinking of trying a new diet or changing vitamins, check with your doctor first.
- Do not take up smoking, and if you do smoke, try to stop. Tobacco chemicals damage the blood vessels behind your eyes and increase your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Tobacco use is also associated with other eye diseases, including cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
- Wear protective goggles when working with tools and machinery, as well as during recreational activities.
Should I Get a Second Opinion?
- The eyes and general health conditions of each individual are different and unique, and there are times when an eye doctor cannot improve a person’s vision.
- If you are not satisfied with your eye doctor’s responses to your concerns or questions, consider visiting another doctor and getting a second opinion about your eye condition.
- Sometimes a new doctor can provide a different perspective or explanation about a particular situation or course of treatment.
EyeSmart is a program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), which in partnership with EyeCare America, offers Ask An Eye M.D. Through this feature, you can get your eye condition questions answered by a volunteer ophthalmologist.
Sample of Questions Answered