How do I find a better optometrist and get a better eye exam?
January 2, 2014 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I don't really trust that I'm getting a good eye exam from my optometrist (chain store) and felt the same about the previous two (local practice and another chain store.) Given that I'm not a doctor myself, how do I find/get a better eye exam or gain a reasonable confidence I'm getting a good exam in my current situation?
posted by michaelh to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
What is leading you to believe that your previous exams were insufficient? Are your prescriptions too high or too low, or are there other factors influencing this concern?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:39 AM on January 2, 2014

What did you not like? Did you get an incorrect prescription?
posted by Wordwoman at 10:40 AM on January 2, 2014

Why not ask your doctor? It wouldn't be as much of a "professional referral", but if either he or any of his partners wears glasses, there's no reason he wouldn't reco for you.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:44 AM on January 2, 2014

I ask questions at my eye exams when I don't understand why something's being done or what a given test measures. Ask them to explain what they're doing as they go, and ask them to tell you more about what your prescription means. Their answers should either make you feel more confident about the quality of the exam they're doing, or not, in which case you should ask around for local referrals.
posted by asperity at 10:45 AM on January 2, 2014

If you're in the Boston metro area, I can recommend someone specifically. I go to one of the ophthalmologists who works for my medical practice.

More generally, I look for someone who doesn't sell glasses at all. I had a bad experience as a kid with an optician who sold glasses, and used that as an opportunity to sell people new pairs of glasses every six months ("she'll go blind if she doesn't have them!" Well then).

Do you have any specific concerns you could share about why you feel your exams aren't good?
posted by pie ninja at 10:46 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might consider upgrading from an optometrist to an ophthalmologist. My husband has to see an ophthalmologist due to a specific medical issue, and I started tagging along with him to get my eye test just because it's more convenient. I feel like I get a better eye exam from the ophthalmologist.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:48 AM on January 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

(I should add, I do realize MOST opticians who sell glasses are fine. I just got burned badly by one who wasn't fine.)
posted by pie ninja at 10:49 AM on January 2, 2014

Go to a local university with an optometry school. The best eye exams I have ever had were at the UC Berkeley school of Optometry. Your appointment will last forever, but they will be very comprehensive - everything will also be double checked by instructors...

One other thing to note - your prescription changes depending upon lots of external it's not really possible to get a "perfect" prescription which will work in all contexts.
posted by NoDef at 10:51 AM on January 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

What NoDef said, to the letter! I was going to recommend a university with an optometry school, because my appointments at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry are the most thorough and interesting exams of any sort I've ever had.

I have a minor but bothersome issue with switching distance focus that other optometrists have brushed off, but the doctors there took seriously and offered corrective measures (a change in my Rx and some eye exercises) for. I also have a couple benign eye abnormalities, and the doctors there examined them thoroughly to make sure they were truly benign--and as a bonus, explained it all to me when I showed an interest! They also invited half a dozen medical students to come look, too, which I guess might be weird or uncomfortable for some people, but certainly reassures you that you're getting a thorough exam. And I really wanted contacts to wear on rare occasions, and other optometrists have insisted contacts weren't an option for me because of those abnormalities, but the doctors at the university clinic made the effort to find contacts that I could wear (and trusted me to only wear them occasionally as promised).

There's no guarantee that other university clinics will be just as awesome, of course, but I imagine they're much more likely to be very thorough than small offices.

(There's also an independent optometrist here in Berkeley who is amazing and thorough and genuinely cares about your particular individual eyes. I'm pretty sure she's a graduate of the university eye school. The only reason I don't go to her is the clinic is much more affordable.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:06 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is very difficult to answer your question because we do not know what "my current situation" means. Based on your question, the "current situation" is that you have been to three different optometrists but they are somehow getting it wrong. That suggests, but does not necessarily mean, that the problem is not with the optometrists. In the case that they were all using autorefractors, as is very common today, that means we have three shabby machines and three mediocre optometrists. This seems unlikely.

I think the way you can be reasonably confident of a good eye exam is that you can see properly when wearing your prescription lenses. What is it that you think these three doctors have missed or failed to properly treat?
posted by Tanizaki at 11:11 AM on January 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Like the others, I'd like more detail--what's troubling you specifically? Are prescriptions incorrect, are they refusing to answer questions, are they not taking concerns seriously...? I have severe myopia (of the "not only can I not read anything on the eye chart, I cannot see an eye chart in the first place" variety) + astigmatism and need RGP lenses; I switched to my current optometrist after getting a run of chain store folks who didn't believe in spectacle blur. Is it something like that? I agree with the others that if there's a nearby uni with an opthalmology program, that might be the way to go.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:24 AM on January 2, 2014

Response by poster: Current situation just means me seeing my current optometrist. I have a chronic illness that has caused my vision to fluctuate in the past, and I'm just generally unsatisfied with how the prescription turns out when I get my glasses (or contacts.) It's nothing special, but the doubts are real.

I live roughly between Chicago and Madison so am happy to hear about doctors in the general area.

Thanks for all answers so far.
posted by michaelh at 11:24 AM on January 2, 2014

Schools of optometry can depend on which student you get. I wasn't especially excited about the quality of the prescription I got at UC Berkeley's School of Optometry, and friends who have gone there have had mixed results. I was, however, pretty confident that the health of my eyes had been thoroughly investigated.

If you have a chronic illness that ties into vision, I would second trying an ophthalmologist. Also, I make sure to have them dilate my eyes each time, because I have a relative who had a brain tumor and it was first detected when the ophthalmologist saw pressure on his optic nerve during an eye exam. Apparently previous chain optometrists had not dilated his eyes.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:30 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a chronic illness that has caused my vision to fluctuate in the past

Given this, you need to go to an ophthalmologist who is prepared to understand and account for your medical issues, not an optometrist.
posted by deanc at 11:37 AM on January 2, 2014 [11 favorites]

Based on your follow-up, an ophthalmologist is who you need to see.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:44 AM on January 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Umpteenthing the recommendation to go to an ophthalmologist, because of your medical condition.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:53 AM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have various eye anomalies (that do affect me a lot) and while I do see an opthamologist (one with a neuro specialization in my case) my prescription is done by an optometrist at the practice who specializes in those with eye issues. He has an M.S. in addition to his doctor of optometry. He's really great. Opthtamologists are great but you may want to look for an optometrist who specializes in those of us who are a little more complicated to treat.
posted by Aranquis at 12:23 PM on January 2, 2014

Current situation just means me seeing my current optometrist. I have a chronic illness that has caused my vision to fluctuate in the past, and I'm just generally unsatisfied with how the prescription turns out when I get my glasses (or contacts.) It's nothing special, but the doubts are real.

Definitely go to an ophthalmologist, and NoDef's suggestion to go to a university is a great one. Depending on what your illness is, you may want to see a neuroophthalmologist. I have been to one (at a university) and the appointment took for-ev-er (had 6 separate neuroophth hopefuls plus two forreals doctors) but it was extremely thorough and I left feeling like absolutely everything had been covered.

(This was in Chicago, so if you are interested in actually going to Chicago I can recommend where. But neuroophth might be way overboard for you.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2014

Definitely go to an ophthalmologist. Ask your GP/internist for a recommendation.
posted by radioamy at 12:46 PM on January 2, 2014

Nthing ophthalmologist and if you have a specialist for your chronic illness, ask the specialist. I got a referral from my rheumatologist to a fantastic ophthalmologist.
posted by immlass at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2014

I had a very hard time getting glasses that worked for me several years ago, and finally found a great optometrist by asking a good local optician for a recommendation.

I did try an ophthalmologist, and found that he was not nearly as good at writing a glasses prescription or listening to my issues as any of the optometrists I'd seen. Obviously, that's just one experience, but if what you need is a good prescription for glasses, that's what optometrists do.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:12 PM on January 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I have scheduled an appointment with a recommended ophthalmologist. I will probably also get an independent optometrist recommendation and see if anything differs.
posted by michaelh at 7:53 AM on January 27, 2014

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