Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to commonly asked questions. If your question is not answered, please ask during your appointment, or call our office.
My eyes don’t hurt and my vision is okay. Do I need an eye exam?
Regular eye exams are an invaluable tool in maintaining your eyes’ health by detecting and preventing disease. Some diseases, such as glaucoma, often develop gradually without causing pain or vision loss – so you may not notice anything wrong until significant and irreversible damage has been done.
Early detection of any problems can allow for a choice of treatment options and a reduced risk of further harm.
What should I expect during my complete eye exam appointment?
One of our friendly patient representatives will greet you upon your arrival. Please have all forms completed, either through our patient portal or downloaded forms. You will be asked to present your insurance card or cash coupon and your photo identification. If you have an insurance plan such as an HMO or PPO that requires a referral, please make sure we have it on file or please bring it with you.
Next, you will meet with one of our highly skilled, Certified Ophthalmic Technicians. They will do a series of vision testing, including refraction, and ask you about your general health and your eye health. If you wear prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, please be sure to bring them with you. If you take medications, please bring that list with you. Depending on the type of exam for which you are scheduled, you may or may not be given dilation drops in your eyes. Dilation makes it difficult to focus on close objects. This can interfere with your ability to drive or work for a few hours after your eye exam. Eye dilation also makes your eyes more sensitive to bright light. Disposable sunglasses will be provided should you forget to your bring your sunglasses.
Now you will be ready to see one of our Board Certified Ophthalmologists. They will do a careful exam of the outside and the inside of your eye(s). Depending on the reason for your appointment, they may order additional testing to rule out or monitor specific eye disease(s). If you have questions, please feel free to jot them down before your appointment so you will be ready to discuss them with your doctor. Should your condition require surgery, you will meet with one of our detailed and compassionate Surgery Schedulers to plan for your procedure. If you are tired of wearing corrective lenses and wish to schedule LASIK, you will meet with our expert Refractive Coordinator.
After your doctor visit you will check out with a patient representative to schedule any follow up appointments and to settle your account. We accept cash, checks, and all major credit cards.
Last, but not least, you will pick up your corrective lens prescription and shop for your new, stylish frames and/or lenses with our Board Certified Opticians or contact lens fitter.
Please expect to be in our office approximately 90 minutes for a complete eye examination.
Should I use my Routine Vision Coverage or my Medical Insurance?
Your routine vision benefit/carrier is billed if you are seeing the doctor for a “healthy” eye exam or for a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses only.
Again, these definitions are based on guidelines of your insurance company and vision plan and Eye Physicians of Austin is contractually obligated to follow them. EPA makes every effort to submit claims correctly so that:
1. We are in compliance with our contracted insurance carriers and vision plans.
2. You do not receive unexpected medical bills for uncovered services.
What is a refraction?
Refraction is the process of determining the eye’s refractive error, or need for corrective glasses
and/or contact lenses.
Refraction is sometimes necessary depending on the patient’s diagnosis and/or complaints
presented that day. For example, if a patient is experiencing blurred vision or a decrease in
visual acuity on the eye chart, a refraction would be needed to see if this is due to a need for
glasses or due to a medical problem. A refraction is also necessary to prove to insurance
the need for cataract surgery. We must prove that your vision cannot be simply improved with
a glasses prescription. As you can see a refraction is an essential part of an eye exam, however,
Medicare and most insurance DO NOT cover it.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that can cause vision loss if left untreated. It is one of the most serious eye disorders and approximately 2.25 million Americans 45 years or older have glaucoma. It is estimated that between 84,000 and 116,000 of them have become blind from glaucoma. The incidence of glaucoma increases with age.
Glaucoma is usually caused by increased pressure in the eye, which causes mechanical damage to the optic nerve and also affects the blood flow to the optic nerve. This damage to the optic nerve will cause vision loss. There are two main types of glaucoma, open angle glaucoma (the most common form) and angle closure glaucoma (5% of glaucoma cases).
Yearly examinations with your ophthalmologist will be sufficient to check for glaucoma. If you have any risk factors for glaucoma your ophthalmologist will perform a work-up for glaucoma. The work-up includes checking your eye pressure with a tonometer, checking for damage to the optic nerve, and checking for damage to the drainage system in the eye.
Does glaucoma have any symptoms?
Glaucoma often develops over many years without causing pain – so you may not experience vision loss until the disease has progressed. Symptoms are occasionally present and should be taken as warning signs that glaucoma may be developing; these include blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, halo effects around lights and painful or reddened eyes.
Who is at risk for glaucoma?
People at the greatest risk include those who are over the age of 40, diabetic, near-sighted, African-American, or who have a family history of glaucoma.
Is glaucoma treatable?
Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be controlled. Treatments to lower pressure in the eye include non-surgical methods such as prescription eye drops and medications, laser therapy, and surgery.
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is the number-one cause of blindness in the United States. It occurs when the macula — a part of the retina in the back of the eye that ensures that our vision is clear and sharp — degrades or “degenerates,” causing a progressive loss of vision.
Does macular degeneration have any symptoms?
Yes. They include:
A gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
A gradual loss of color vision
A dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision
Can macular degeneration be treated?
The “dry” form of macular degeneration has no treatment, but the “wet” form may be helped by laser procedures if it is detected early. Certain vitamins and minerals may also aid in slowing or preventing vision loss.
What is a cataract? Who is at risk for developing them?
A cataract is a loss of transparency, or clouding, of the normally clear lens of the eye. As one ages, chemical changes occur in the lens that make it less transparent. The loss of transparency may be so mild vision is hardly affected or so severe that no shapes or movements are seen, only light and dark. When the lens gets cloudy enough to obstruct vision to any significant degree, it is called a cataract. Glasses or contact lenses cannot sharpen your vision if a cataract is present.
People at risk for developing cataracts are over 55 years old, have had eye injuries or disease, have a family history of cataracts, smoke cigarettes or use certain medications.
Can cataracts be prevented?
Reducing the amount of ultraviolet light exposure by wearing a wide-brim hat and sunglasses may reduce your risk for developing a cataract but once developed there is no cure except to have the cataract surgically removed. Early detection through regular eye exams can help maintain the clearest vision possible.
Are there symptoms associated with cataracts?
There is no pain associated with the condition, but there are several symptoms that indicate failing vision due to cataracts. These include:
Spots in front of the eye(s)
Sensitivity to glare
A feeling of “film” over the eye(s)
A temporary improvement in near vision
How are cataracts treated?
Vision loss from cataracts can often be corrected with prescription glasses and contact lenses. For people who are significantly affected by cataracts, replacement surgery may be the preferred method of treatment. During cataract replacement (the most common surgical procedure in the country), the lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one called an intraocular lens or IOL.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that weakens the blood vessels that supply nourishment to the retina (the light-sensitive lining in the back of the eye where vision is focused). When these weak vessels leak, swell or develop thin branches, vision loss occurs. In its advanced stages, the disease can cause blurred or cloudy vision, floaters and blind spots – and, eventually, blindness. This damage is irreversible.
Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
Yes. People with diabetes are most susceptible to developing it, but your risk is reduced if you follow your prescribed diet and medications, exercise regularly, control your blood pressure, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Regular eye exams are an integral part of making sure your eyes are healthy.
Can diabetic retinopathy be treated?
Although damage caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be corrected, patients diagnosed with the condition can be treated to slow its progression and prevent further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser and surgical procedures.
What is dry eye?
“Dry eye” is the term for when your eyes are insufficiently moisturized, either because they do not produce enough tears or because the tears have an improper chemical composition. It often occurs during the natural aging process, but it can also form as a result of eyelid or blinking problems, certain medications (antihistamines, oral contraceptives, antidepressants), climate (low humidity, wind, dust), injury, and various health problems (arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome).
Is dry eye serious?
In addition to being uncomfortable, dry eye can damage eye tissue, scar the cornea and impair vision. Dry eye is not preventable, but it can be controlled before harm is done to your eyes.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
Irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes
A burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes
How can dry eye be treated?
Treatment for dry eye can take many forms. Non-surgical methods include blinking exercises, increasing humidity at home or work, and use of artificial tears or moisturizing ointment. If these methods fail, small plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or the drainage tubes in the eyes may be surgically closed.