Everything you need to know about Refractive Error

6:14 PM

A large part of my day is spent performing one task that goes a little something like this:
The Phoropter, an amazing machine I spend a large portion of my day with

Imagine you are sitting behind the phoropter, a machine that is basically a large pair of glasses with every possible prescription inside.  On the other side of this very unattractive pair of glasses sits me, your friendly neighborhood eye doctor, spinning dials and flipping lenses.  And with every successive clicking sound, I am asking you: “Which is better, one or two?” 
It might seem simple enough, but I have had patients tell me that those combinations of words incite anxiety levels on par with “We’re going to have to operate.”

In all seriousness though, some people do find the refractive process very nerve-wracking.  I would like to take this opportunity to reassure those patients that if they choose the “wrong” answer to which is clearer, they are not going to end up with hugely thick glasses that they can’t see out of.  In fact, we as optometrists give you so many "tough" choices to make certain that you are getting the absolute minimum power you need to see 20/20.  If the choices are starting to look the same, and you can’t tell the difference, that is great!  That means that we have found your right power! 

After your prescription is finalized, however, there is still a lot to discuss.   One thing we have proven at this point: you either do or do not need glasses.  For some patients, either answer can be a disappointment.  Yes, I actually do get patients that are unhappy that they don’t need glasses.  They are usually children (late elementary to middle most commonly), whose best friends wear glasses.  Just a heads up to parents, if your kid suddenly comes home with vision complaints the same day their best friend sports glasses to school, it is a great idea to have their vision checked by a qualified professional, but they may not end up needing correction.  We have many ways of ascertaining your child’s true prescription, so don’t worry that the optometrist can be “fooled” into prescribing lenses that aren’t needed.

To get back to the main topic, however, after I prescribe glasses I often have patients left wondering what is wrong with their eyes that they need glasses?  And why do they have to get prescription glasses instead of the ones at the dollar store?  And why can’t they wear their mom’s/grandmother’s/ neighbor’s glasses because they have a spare that they are sure they can borrow?  Well, all these questions and more will be answered in my coming series: The Patient’s Guide to Refractive Error. 

I will have the first post in the series up as soon as possible!

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