Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between an optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician?

An optometrist will have completed an optometry school and carries the credentials OD or doctor of optometry. They are well qualified to diagnose, treat and care for common diseases of the eyes and vision. Optometrists are not medical doctors. They are however trained to detect various diseases and malformations of the eye including cataracts and glaucoma. They cannot however perform eye surgery to correct these diseases, and may have to refer patients with complicated diseases of the eye to an ophthalmologist. Most optometrists work with patients with various vision problems and prescribe corrective lenses to help improve their vision. They can also diagnose and treat anterior surface eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, uveitis, dry eye syndrome and other inflammation of the eye and surface eye diseases.
An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor with specialized experience in surgical and medical procedures. They are a good choice for anyone with injuries to the eye, eye disease, complicated vision problems, or conditions requiring surgery. Typically an ophthalmologist has an M.D. or D.O. degree.
Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors and surgeons or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual correction. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.


Why do so many people skip their annual eye exam?

We think it's due to the fact that they simply don't know what to expect. For this reason, we feel it's important to outline the process, so you can feel comfortable knowing there's nothing to worry about.  Also, we believe that many people don’t clearly understand the importance of regular eye exams.


Can I put new lenses in my own frame?

In general, yes you can. Though we always advise getting a new frame with your new lenses - that way your frame is warranted for a year against manufacturing defects and can be replaced if you break it. Old frames are often discontinued and can't be replaced if broken. Also, keep in mind that if your frame is on it's last leg it might break when trying to put new lenses in it! Many non-prescription frames aren't meant to accept prescription lenses.


If I have an eye infection - or something in my eye – should I go see you or my "regular" doctor?

You should see us! Optometrists are doctors whose education and clinical experience deal almost entirely with the human eye - we are eye experts. We are licensed to diagnose and manage all ordinary eye infections and diseases, including prescribing eye drops and oral medications if necessary. In addition, we have instruments in our office that are made exclusively for examining and treating the eye.


Will wearing glasses make my eyes get worse?

In short, no, it will not. Wearing your correct prescription is ideal for your eyes – they are less likely to strain when they see clearly. The only time glasses can cause the eyes to get worse is if they are made incorrectly – too strong – in someone whose eyes are still developing (children or young teens). You may find that once you start wearing your glasses, you'll want to wear them more often – but that's just because you like seeing clearly!


What does the optometrist do during my eye exam?

Normally there is nothing about a routine eye exam that is painful, so you can relax. Each person's eyes are different, so Dr. Bell will determine the elements of your eye examination on an individual basis. He will perform a series of tests designed to not only gauge your visual acuity but also the health of your eyes. He will test your depth perception, your color vision, and your ability to read different sizes of letters and numbers at various distances. He'll ask you questions as he proceeds about your work or school, and what your normal activities are throughout your day. He will also check the health of your eyes, looking for any early signs of possible eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cataracts, or retinal issues.


I have perfect or "20/20" vision. Do I still need to have a regular eye exam?

Absolutely! Many eye diseases or disorders have nothing to do with your general vision and are initially asymptomatic (that is, without exhibiting obvious symptoms). It is always best to detect any condition and initiate treatment as early as possible in order to avoid or minimize visual impairment. Only a thorough, professional eye examination can do this.


"Which is better, one or two?" Why am I asked this question?

This is one of many questions Dr. Bell may ask you during your vision exam. In telling him which of two sets of letters is clearer, you are helping him refine your final prescription. While he asking you which number is better, he is comparing a series of lenses to determine which is clearest for your vision needs. This process requires both you and Dr. Bell to have a little bit of patience, and he needs your sincere answers to make your prescription the very best for you.


Why am I asked for my personal medical background?

Dr. Bell needs to be aware of any medical conditions you may currently have, as well as any medical conditions, procedures or surgeries you may have had in the past that might be affecting your vision today. Your general lifestyle, overall health, past medical issues and current vision concerns are all important details that help Dr. Bell to perform his eye exam in a way that addresses your specific needs.


Why does the optometrist blow a buff of air into each of my eyes?

Like the air pressure in your car tires is an important factor in safe driving, the fluid pressure inside your eyeballs is an important measure of the health of your eyes. The air puff is one way Dr. Bell has of measuring that pressure. High pressure can be an indicator of glaucoma, which is a fairly serious eye condition.


Why does the eye doctor dilate my pupils during the eye exam?

Pupil dilation is not necessary during every eye exam. However, dilation is essential to viewing the entire eye to monitor for many diseases that can occur. Since the eye is a member of the rest of your body, indications of such diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure, tumors, macular degeneration, and many other diseases can appear in your eyes as well. In recent years, new retinal imaging equipment has been developed to photograph better images of the eye without the eye being dilated. However, even with this improved technology, some testing still requires dilation. Therefore, we will continue to dilate some of our patients to ensure we are not missing anything. Your vision will be blurry and lights will appear much brighter after being dilated with certain drops, but this is only a temporary condition, and your vision will usually be back to normal within 3-5 hours. If you have not brought sunglasses with you for driving after you leave our office, we can offer you temporary protection.


Why do I have to have my contact lenses evaluated yearly?

Unlike glasses, contact lenses are medical devices that are worn in direct contact with your eyes. Consequently, they are capable of causing serious harm to your eyes if not fitted, cared for, or worn properly. Although you might detect some problems that may be occurring with your contacts, they can sometimes cause harm to your eyes without you even being aware of it. In addition, just like all parts of our bodies are continually changing, the condition of your eyes can be changing without your knowledge. Therefore, to renew your contact lenses prescription, the eye doctor must annually evaluate your eye health in full, see for himself how your contact lenses are fitting, and review your care regimen to ensure you are still a good candidate for continuing to wear contact lenses.


Am I a good candidate for laser vision correction?

By having a consultation and eye examination at Circle City Optometry, Dr. Gary Bell will be able to determine if you are a good candidate for laser vision correction. Patients, who are at least 18 years of age, have healthy eyes that are free from retinal problems, corneal scars, and any eye diseases are generally suitable. Patients who are nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism are also potential candidates. Dr. Bell will determine if you meet these requirements, he will educate you on the risks and benefits of laser surgery, refer you to a skilled surgeon with whom we are partnered, and then closely monitor you after the surgery is performed.


Can I wear contact lenses?

Each patient must be evaluated initially. However, with the advancement of astigmatism and bifocal contact lenses we are experiencing increasing success in providing patients with freedom from glasses and the convenience of wearing contact lenses.


Can I swim or shower with contact lenses on?

You can, but we advise against it. There are two reasons why we discourage swimming or showering with your contact lenses – possible loss of the lenses, and contamination of the lenses possibly leading to eye infection. Contact lenses may be washed out of your eyes while swimming or playing in water (an expensive loss). Also, contact lenses are likely to absorb any chemicals or germs in the water, which can cause irritation and/or infection.


I've seen advertisements on TV saying that it's okay to sleep in my contact lenses. Is this really true?

While there undoubtedly are eye professionals out there who may say that this practice is acceptable, Dr. Bell feels that sleeping in your contact lenses is ill-advised. Dr. Bell takes a conservative approach to his profession, feeling that it's simply not advisable to take unnecessary risks. Over the 40 years he has been in practice, he has seen too many patients who have done so and subsequently developed eye infections and/or irritation that ended up requiring medical treatment. He has learned that over-wearing your contacts brings with it potential problems that patients can avoid simply by giving their eyes a rest daily. Night time is usually the most convenient time of day to accomplish this.