To See or Not to See.
We would like to debunk some common misconceptions about what you are or are not able to see your optometrist for. Many people think that they need a referral from their family doctor (GP) to see an optometrist for a medical issue. When in fact you can go directly to your optometrist without a referral. Medical issues are considered a minor exam and will be covered by MSP (you do not require the referral for the visit to be covered).
Some medical issues include: red eyes, eye infections, minor eye injuries, or sudden on-set flashes/floaters are all things you can go directly to your eye doctor for. A referral from your GP is not needed prior to seeing the optometrist for these things. If you’re not sure if you need to an eye doctor, any pain, discharge, changes in vision, or objects in the eye (or the feeling of something in your eye) all warrant a check by your eye doctor. Optometrists have the proper equipment to accurately diagnose your symptoms and prescribe you the proper treatment. Skip the long line at your GP’S office and see your eye doctor the same day – your eye doctor is more likely able to squeeze you in on the same day (especially if it’s an emergency).
Red eyes often indicate eye infections and can be difficult to differentiate between. Only with the use of the microscopes that optometrists have, are they able to get a good look at your eyes to make the right diagnosis. Allergies, bacterial infections, and viral infections all present very similarly. It is important that you receive the proper treatment to prevent the situation from worsening.
Other less obvious conditions that present with lumps/bumps on or near the eye are also things best diagnosed by your eye doctor. If referrals are needed for removals of such lumps/bumps, your optometrist will be able to send you to see an ophthalmologist for that procedure. Most of the time small things can be treated with proper antibiotic drops/gels prescribed by your optometrist.
Minor injuries are also best seen by your optometrist. If you think something may have gotten stuck or scratched your eye, make sure you go in to see an eye doctor right away. It may feel okay or only slightly irritating, but small scratches can turn into nasty infections over night if not treated properly. If the injury is more serious (penetrating object) definitely head to the emergency!
Sudden on-set flashes or floaters are also valid reasons to see your optometrist and do not require a referral from your GP. These can indicate that there is a retinal hole tear or detachment occurring in the back of your eye and need to be treated immediately. Your optometrist will make the proper referral and possible get you in to see the ophthalmologist the same day for treatment.
Your eye doctor specializes in disorders of the eye. So if you ever have any issues or questions about your eyes, it is best to see an optometrist.