How do I get optometry (eye care) services?

If you’re having problems seeing or reading, you might need to get your eyes checked by an optometrist (eye doctor).

Are eye care services covered by public health insurance?

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers the cost of eye care services if you meet certain requirements.

OHIP covers one routine eye examination per year for anyone who is 19 years and younger OR 65 years and older. It will also cover any follow-up assessments you need.

OHIP also covers one routine eye examination per year for all other ages if you have a specific medical condition affecting the eye, like:

  • Diabetes
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataract
  • Retinal disease
  • Amblyopia
  • Visual field defects
  • Corneal disease
  • Strabismus
  • Recurrent uveitis
  • Optic pathway disease

To schedule a routine eye exam, find an optometrist near you.

What happens during a routine eye exam?

During your eye exam, the optometrist will check:

  • Your health history
  • For any diseases or abnormalities
  • The way your eyes adjust to focus from near and far
  • How sharp your vision is
  • If your eyes properly focus on light

After the exam, the optometrist will be able to tell you if you have any eye-related health problems. They will also give you a prescription for glasses or contacts if you need them.

Your optometrist may recommend some more testing and screening besides the initial exam. Before they perform any more tests, your optometrist should:

  • Tell you what the test is and why you need it
  • Discuss the benefits and possible risks with the test
  • Outline how much the extra tests will cost
  • Get your consent to do the test

You can choose whether you want to pay for more tests, or if you want the routine eye exam.

Are prescription glasses or contact lenses covered by OHIP?

OHIP does not cover the cost of glasses or contact lenses. But, there are other provincial programs that may help you pay for prescription eyewear if you can demonstrate a financial need.

The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has vision care benefits. ODSP covers routine eye exams once every two years, and prescription glasses once every three years.

Ontario Works (OW) also has health-related benefits. OW covers routine eye exams once every two years, and may help cover the cost of glasses and repairs.

What’s the difference between an optometrist, an ophthalmologist, and an optician?

An optometrist is your primary care eye doctor. They do routine eye exams. They can identify and recommend treatment for vision-related health conditions. They also prescribe glasses, contact lenses, and drugs if you need it.

If your optometrist finds a health issue with your eyes, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is an eye surgeon who’s trained to treat eye diseases.

An optician can use the prescription an optometrist gave you to fit you for glasses, contact lenses, or some other vision device.

How can I keep my eyes healthy?

Your lifestyle, environment, and genetics affect your eye health.

You can reduce the risk of developing eye health issues by:

Getting your eyes checked regularly. Doctors recommend routine eye exams every year if you’re under 20 years or over 64 years, and every two years otherwise.

Protect your eyes from the sun. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays is associated with a higher risk of developing cataracts. Wear sunglasses or a wide brim hat for protection.

Eat well and exercise. Health issues like blood pressure and diabetes may affect your vision. You're at a greater risk of developing these conditions if you have a sedentary lifestyle or if you have a poor diet. Try to stay active and increase the amount of leafy green vegetables, fish, and fresh fruit in your meals.

Don’t smoke. You can lose your vision or develop an eye condition if you smoke tobacco regularly.