Frequently asked questions from consumers
Q: I have no problems with my vision. Why should I bother getting my eyes tested?
A: It is generally recommended that adults even if they are not having any problems with their eyes have an eye examination at least every two years, or more often if recommended by their optometrist. This is because some serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma or diabetic eye disease, have no symptoms until they are well advanced. Early detection will improve the chances of a person continuing to see well right throughout their life. Eye tests can also help diagnose other systemic health conditions.
Q: What is the difference between an optometrist and an optician?
A: Under New Zealand law, there is no such thing as an optician, although the term is still used widely. An “optometrist” is a person who is registered with this Board and is required to regularly prove his/her competence to us in order to be allowed to keep practising. Optometrists conduct eye exams, diagnose eye disease or other conditions, and prescribe glasses or other optical appliances for defects in sight. It is illegal for a person to call themselves an optometrist unless they are registered with this Board. You can check whether a person is registered with us, and whether they hold a current practising certificate by searching our online register. You can also ask to see a person’s practising certificate when you are at the practice.
A “dispensing optician” is a person who is registered with this Board and is required to regularly prove his/her competence in order to be allowed to keep practising. Dispensing opticians interpret prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses, give advice to the patient in selecting spectacle lenses, spectacle frames (including their fitting), contact lenses, and dispense your optical appliance. It is illegal for a person to call themselves a dispensing optician unless they are registered with this Board. You can check whether a person is registered with us, and whether they hold a current practising certificate by searching our online register. You can also ask to see a person’s practising certificate when you are at the practice.
Q: I want to stop going to my current optometrist and find a new one. Am I allowed a copy of my patient records?
A: Yes you are. Under the Privacy Act you are allowed to request a copy of all or any part of your record, which is your personal information. You should not be charged for this unless you are requesting the same information that you have already requested in the last year. The Board has published a Statement on this which all optometrists and dispensing opticians are expected to comply with. You can read the Statement by clicking here.
Q: What happens in an eye exam?
A: This will depend on when you last had an eye exam, your age and your medical history. Your optometrist will ask you questions to decide what tests he/she should do as part of your eye exam. A full eye exam will take at least 30 minutes, perhaps longer.
You may need to have drops put in your eyes which dilate your pupils so that the optometrist can properly examine the inside your eyes. The drops will make you sensitive to glare and you will have some trouble focusing until they wear off. Your optometrist should talk to you if he/she wants to use the drops, and unless this needs to be done urgently, you should be able to rebook when you don’t have to drive a vehicle or go back to work immediately afterwards.
Optometrists use a range of instruments when conducting an eye exam. If you are not sure what they are doing, or why they are doing it, ask them to explain.
Q: What is an ophthalmologist?
A: An ophthalmologist is a specialist eye doctor. Ophthalmologists manage serious eye conditions and perform surgery on eyes. They are registered medical professionals. The Medical Council of New Zealand is responsible for registering ophthalmologists. You can search their register by clicking here.