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General FAQ

What are the differences between ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians?

An Ophthalmologist is a physician -- an MD or DO -- who has completed a four year undergraduate degree, a four-year medical degree, followed by a 1-year internship and 3-year (or more) residency in ophthalmology.

An Optometrist is not a medical doctor, but receives the degree of OD at a 4-year optometry school after completing four (or sometimes three) years of undergraduate study.

An Optician is a technician who has either earned a 2-year optician degree from a community college or has learned while on the job.

What is a refraction?

The refraction test is an eye exam that measures a person's prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. This is done through a phoroptor which houses a variety of lenses. These are used to determine the power necessary to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, or difficulty with reading.

What do I need to bring to my appointment?

You can print and fill out the patient information form here to speed up the check-in process. You will need:

  • A copy of your insurance card and a photo id.
  • All of your current medications in their original container or a list that shows dosage and frequency for each medication
  • Any paperwork from another doctor if they referred you to Stokes
  • Your primary care physician's name and address
  • Your pharmacy's name and address

Cataract FAQ

What is a cataract?

A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens in the eye.

Who gets cataracts?

Typically cataracts develop later in life, however some babies are born with them. Other causes of cataract development include but are not limited to injuries, prolonged use of certain medications and UV exposure.

How are cataracts treated?

Patients with very small or "immature" cataracts can sometimes have improved vision with a new prescription for glasses. If the cataract is more mature and is causing patients difficulty with normal daily activities, then surgery may be required.

How is the cataract removed?

Cataract surgery is normally performed on an outpatient basis. After arriving at the surgery center, you will be placed under local or general anesthesia. Microsurgical instruments are used to create a small incision and break apart the cataract. The cataract is then suctioned out of the eye and replaced with an Intraocular Implant, also known as an IOL which is an artificial implant.

What can I expect after surgery?

Following cataract surgery, your physician will instruct you on how to use postoperative eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation as well as activities to avoid. While healing time varies for all patients, many patients will notice an improvement in vision immediately following surgery. Most patients can return to normal activity about a week following surgery.

I have heard there are multifocal lenses that can be implanted. Does that mean I can do without glasses?

Yes, there are multiple types of IOL's that can be implanted. These lenses can provide patients with multiple ranges of vision including distance, intermediate, and near. In most cases, patients are able to perform normal daily activity without glasses or contacts. You will need to consult your ophthalmologist as to whether you are a suitable candidate for a multifocal lens. Additional charges may apply to multifocal upgrades.

Glaucoma FAQ

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can cause progressive loss of vision if left untreated. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. Glaucoma is often associated with the buildup of intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eye, which can cause damage to the optic nerve. There is no cure for this disease, but many people with glaucoma live normal, healthy lives by continuing to follow up with their eye care professionals regularly.

Who is at risk?

It is estimated that over 3 million people in America have glaucoma. Unfortunately, only half of these people have been formally diagnosed. African Americans and patients with a family history of the disease are at increased risk of having glaucoma. Infants and young children can be born with congenital glaucoma, although this type is considered rare. Some patients who are diabetic, on long term medications, or have had trauma to the eye(s) are also at risk and should discuss any concerns with their eye care professionals.

What are the symptoms?

In its early stages, patients with open angle glaucoma may not notice any symptoms at all. Vision will most likely be normal and patients do not experience any discomfort. Eventually, if left untreated, patients will start to notice a decrease in their peripheral, or side vision. Sometimes vision loss from glaucoma is described as looking thru a tunnel. In angle-closure glaucoma, patients can experience a sudden onset of severe pain and nausea. The eye(s) can become very red with vision also becoming blurry. These symptoms are considered a medical emergency and patients are urged to seek medical attention immediately.

How am I diagnosed?

A thorough dilated eye exam is the first step in diagnosing glaucoma. Your doctor will check the pressure in your eye using a method called tonometry, examine the drainage angles in the front of the eye with a special lens, and evaluate the optic nerve with an ophthalmoscope. Discussing your family history with your doctor is also very helpful. Your eye care professional may also order additional diagnostic testing to help determine if you have glaucoma and if there has been any damage to your vision.

I have glaucoma, now what?

Medicated eye drops are one of the most common methods used to treat glaucoma. Taken regularly, these drops are very effective in controlling intraocular pressure. Some patients are required to take more than one type of drop and/or pills to control their IOP. Laser or conventional surgery may be necessary if medications are not controlling your pressure effectively.

Many patients become very unsettled when they are diagnosed with glaucoma. It is important to keep regularly scheduled appointments with your eye care professional and discuss any concerns you may have with him/her. Unfortunately there is currently no cure for glaucoma and vision loss from the disease cannot be repaired, however with early diagnosis and proper treatment, patients can prevent further damage to vision.

Diabetes FAQ

How does diabetes affect my vision?

The American Diabetic Association reports that over 25 million people of all ages in the United States have diabetes. Unfortunately, one third of this statistic has not been formally diagnosed. This disease is responsible for thousands of reported cases of blindness yearly. Diabetes affects many parts of the body, including the eyes. Many diabetics only report minor problems such as slight changes to vision, however some patients may develop cataracts at an earlier rate and are also at risk of developing eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease that can cause damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye, also known as the retina. All patients diagnosed with diabetes are at risk for developing retinopathy. Some of the risk factors for developing retinopathy include poor blood sugar control, obesity, high blood pressure and even gender. Pregnant women with diabetes are also at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy, proliferative and nonproliferative.

Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, also known as background diabetic retinopathy or BDR is an early stage of retinopathy. Patients may have microaneurysms, retinal blood vessels may begin to leak and form fatty deposits called exudates, and mild swelling can occur. Changes to vision can occur if swelling is present or if the patient has inadequate blood supply to the retina secondary to blockage in the blood vessels known as ischemia. Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy or PDR is a more advanced stage of the disease. PDR is characterized by neovascularization which is new blood vessel growth on the surface of the retina or optic nerve due to inadequate blood flow from blocked blood vessels. These vessels are very fragile and often lead to hemorrhages in the clear gel like substance filling the eye called vitreous. A few dark floaters to a complete blockage of vision are just a few symptoms of a vitreous hemorrhage. Vision loss from a hemorrhage is not always permanent.

What should I expect during my eye exam?

A diabetic eye exam is generally suggested for all newly diagnosed patients. The doctor will dilate your pupils and use a special instrument called an ophthalmoscope to check the retina for any diabetic changes. Your doctor may order additional testing if he/she does find signs of diabetic retinopathy. These tests include color photographs of the retina, a special dye study called an intravenous fluorescein angiogram, or a scan of the retina called an OCT.

I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, now what?

Sadly, many patients ignore the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy and believe they will “just go away”. Unfortunately, many of these patients will experience permanent damage to their vision that could have been prevented. Diabetic patients should call their doctor with any questions or changes to their vision. Many offices also have an on call physician after hours for emergencies.

Early stages of diabetic retinopathy are usually treated with good blood sugar control, maintaining good blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as routine follow up visits with your doctor. More advanced stages of the disease require more aggressive treatments such as intraocular injections, laser and even traditional surgery. Your ophthalmologist will determine the most appropriate treatment for you.

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