Thursday, July 19, 2012

Look Into My Eyes

Eye appointments + diabetes = every twelve months.

Every year, for the past (almost) ten years, I have been going to see an ophthalmologist to have my eyes examined. I shuffle from room to room, going from test to test, having my pupils dilated to the extreme. I am usually the youngest person there - by at least 30 years.

I'm cool with that because I am all about prevention. I will dutifully sit through the eye dilating discomfort in order to catch problems early.

My ophthalmologist has just retired and I am due for my annual appointment. I asked my diabetes doc who I should be referred to and she told me I could go see any eye doctor I wanted to see. According to her, they do all the same tests. They just can't deal with diabetes complications so, if I develop any, they will refer me to an ophthalmologist.


Let me back up another decade. Ten years ago (almost), I developed type one diabetes. Ten years before that, I was in a really bad car accident. Several parts of me got pretty messed up for a while and one of them was my eyes. So I was referred to an ophthalmologist whom I saw regularly until he retired...not long before I developed diabetes. Basically, I've always gone to a specialist for my eyes for one reason or another and have never gone to a regular eye doctor. What are they called anyway? Opticians?? Optometrists?

Yesterday, I called a local eye doctor based on a recommendation. "Are you taking new patients?" I asked. "Yes we are" I was told. "I should probably tell you that I have type 1 diabetes" I said. "Oh that's fine, we have lots of patients with diabetes" she replied. "Ok, so what happens now?" I asked. "Well, get your doctor to write you a note saying that you have diabetes and then we can bill OHIP directly for your appointments. Shall we book for July 30th?"


I called my doctor and they are going to fax over a letter next week confirming my diagnosis. I asked if I could just show them my insulin pump but apparently that's not proof enough. Perhaps feeding me lots of candy and then testing my blood glucose would work??

If the letter goes through next week as promised, it looks like I have a new eye doctor. A regular eye doctor. The kind that everyone goes to see.

It feels weird after spending so many years seeing specialists to just go to a regular doctor.

Very weird.

I'm just going to be one of the crowd. Another set of eyes to check out.

On a kinda exciting but I'm not yet sure how I feel about it note, I'm going to ask about contact lenses at my first appointment. I have NEVER tried them before but I'm finding that I'm getting more and more frustrated with wanting to wear protective sunglasses and not being able to see without prescription lenses. So I'm going to ask about contacts and try them out. I expect long hours spent at the mirror trying to get the damn things in and out but my easily freaked out little sis says that, after a few tries, it's no big deal.

We'll see about that...


  1. I have been seeing optometrists for many years. Recently, my optometrist referred me to an opthalmologist for glaucoma testing. Two years earlier, I visited an opthalmologist to check on cataracts. After my experiences in those offices, I RACED back to my optometrist.
    Optomestrists have excellent traing. They have a 4 year, post-bachelors degree, similar to what dentists have. They are trained to prescribe glasses and contact lenses and to recognize eye deseases. An opthalmologist has a medical degree and post-graduate training in eye surgery.
    When I was seen by the opthalmologists, there was all that dilation, a technitian (I don't know what her training was) who kept telling me to read an eye chart, and a few rushed minutes with the doctor who asked me to look into a collection of machines and who seemed in a great hurry to get out of there.
    When I see my optometrist, I see her, not an assistant. She has all the time in the world for me. She asks about my husband and family, who she led through lasik surgery years ago. She doesn't confine her treatment to demanding I read a wall chart, like the opthalmoligist's assistant, becaue she knows I can't SEE a wall chart.She very carefully exams my eyes and if she thinks I need to see an opthalmologist, or if she thinks some one would benefit from something like lasik, she has ne qualms about referring.
    Her fees are much more reasonable, too. For years, we didn't have medical insurance, so I was paying out-of-pocket. It cost me about %70 a visist. When I went to the opthalmologists, the bill was about $400, although about half was picked up by insurance.

  2. I've been seeing an optometrist for about 16 years. She does everything an ophthalmologist would do. I started wearing contacts at age 50. They were hard getting used to but if you keep trying it gets easier and then routine. It's kind of like giving yourself injections or using a lancet. Hard at first, then easier, then routine. You will love contacts. I did it for sunglasses reasons as well.