Ophthalmologist Seattle | Frequently Asked Questions | Specialty Eyecarè

Frequently Asked Questions

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

At Specialty EyeCare Centre we believe it is important to provide a comprehensive team of healthcare providers to fit the individual needs of our many patients. We know choosing an eye doctor can be confusing, but we are here to make it simple. There is actually more than one type of eye doctor available to you in our Bellevue location. At Specialty Eyecare Centre we have both an Ophthalmologist on staff as well as an Optometric physician also known as an Optometrist.

An Optometrist is an eye doctor of Optometry and generally has completed a four year college program as well as four years of post graduate professional training in optometry school. Optometrists generally examine the eyes for vision and health problems, perform refractions and also prescribe contacts lenses and glasses. Optometrists are licensed to prescribe medications to treat eye problems.

An Ophthalmologist is a medical doctor or MD that specializes in eye and vision care, performing routine eye exams, diagnosing and treating medical conditions and diseases of the eye, prescribing medications and performing surgery. An ophthalmologist generally completes four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, a minimum of three years of hospital based residency in ophthalmology, and with our physicians, an additional 1-2 years of subspecialty fellowship training.

An Optician is not an eye doctor, but they are an essential part of the Specialty Eyecare Centre team. Opticians use the prescriptions written by the optometrists and ophthalmologists to fit and sell eyeglasses, contact lenses and any other eyewear available at our eyewear gallery located in our Bellevue location. In some states opticians must complete an opticianry training program and be licensed, but this is not required in all states. At Specialty Eyecare Centre, we have opticians available during the week to assist you with the purchase of “custom lenses” designed specifically to fit the individual, as well as to assist in glasses adjustments, contact lens re-orders, purchase of sunglasses and other eyewear.

How do I know which doctor to choose?

Typically, if you have a medical eye problem, such as glaucoma or cataracts it is recommended you seek care from a physician who is highly trained and specialized in that area. At Specialty Eyecare Centre, all of our doctors are trained to perform routine eye exams as well as treat, diagnose and manage all eye conditions. Our staff can help you determine which doctor will best fit your needs and your busy schedule.

If you are seeking a physician who specializes in glaucoma or cataract surgery, Dr. Barnebey treats thousands of glaucoma and cataract patients each year. Dr. Barnebey is one of only a few ophthalmologists in the northwest who is a cataract surgeon trained in the subspecialty of interventional ophthalmology, performing what is called a canaloplasty and he is also routinely offering premium lens surgical options allowing cataract patients the ability to now enjoy more freedom from glasses post surgery. Premium lenses allow people to see clearly at multiple ranges of vision including near, intermediate and far!

Most importantly when choosing an eye doctor please refer to our patient testimonials and get a feel for the patient’s perspective of the Specialty Eyecare Centre experience. Listening to friends, family and other patients is a critical factor when choosing your eye care provider.

How often do I need an eye exam?

Many people do not visit the eye doctor until they have a problem. Sometimes it is too late and there can be irreversible damage. This is a reactive approach to eye care versus a proactive approach. At Specialty Eyecare Centre we engage in the philosophy of “patients for life.” It is our focus to guide you through an ongoing eye care program allowing us to maintain the good health of your eye catching eye concerns before they become a long term problem as well as managing existing eye conditions. Routine eye exams are critical in the prevention and diagnosis of not only eye diseases, but other health problems. We recommend annual eye exams for all patients. While vision plans in Washington do cover visits for medically necessary eye care, most plans may not cover a routine eye exam. If you have Medicare coverage and are just getting a routine eye exam to have your eyes checked and your glasses prescription updated, payment for the exam may be your responsibility unless you also have a private vision insurance policy that covers routine exams.

You only have two eyes. Please do not let the possibility of having to self pay for your eye exams discourage you from maintaining the health of your eyes. Please visit our insurance page for more information.

What is dry eye?

Dry eye is a condition of insufficient tears to continually provide adequate lubrication to the eye. Tears are are essential for the maintained health of the front surface of the eye as well as clear and stable vision. People with dry eye either do not produce enough tears or are producing poor quality tears. Dry eye is quite common and frequently a chronic or long term problem.

Click here to learn more about dry eye.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. Vision through eyes with cataracts is characterized as looking through a foggy window or piece of wax paper. Cataract development is usually a very gradual process of normal aging, but can occasionally occur rapidly. Many people are unaware that they have cataracts because the changes in their vision are so gradual. Visit our cataract center to learn more.

“Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in the world. In fact, there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined, according to Prevent Blindness America (PBA). Today, cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans age 40 and older. And as the U.S. population ages, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020, PBA says.”

Click here to learn more about cataracts.

When will I know it is time to have my cataract surgery?

At Specialty Eyecare Centre we encourage patients to keep up with their annual eye exams in an effort to maintain good health of the eyes. If you have a cataract, the doctor will manage and watch the development of your cataract throughout your visits. If any additional testing is needed, the doctor will let you know at the time of the visit.

As your cataract progresses, the doctor will discuss with you your surgical options and together you can determine when it is time to move forward with surgery. Today, more than ever, there are advancements and options for patients to enjoy freedom from the dependence of glasses after cataract surgery. These options are called premium lenses. We encourage you to go to our educational video library and learn more about the premium lens choices prior to your visit.

Once you and the doctor have determined it is time for surgery, you will meet with a surgical counselor who will guide you through the pre and post surgical process. This will include more education, preoperative testing and clearance as well as financial and scheduling concerns. We encourage you to bring a family member with you during these visits and ask as many questions as you wish so you are fully prepared and understand the process.

Can both eyes be done at the same time for cataract surgery?

While there are certainly proponents of bilateral surgery, the question of treating both eyes at the same time remains a controversial subject. While some practices cite the experiences of safety, convenience and cost savings while doing both eyes at the same time, we believe there are clear cut advantages in separating the timing of the surgery between the two eyes. When dates of surgery are separated, the unique fine tuning adjustments that we make at Specialty Eyecare Centre help us provide a higher level of care and obtain better results. We can keep complications to a minimum. In the rare instance of an eye infection after surgery, we can rest assured this will not occur in both eyes at the same time. We prefer to separate the dates of surgery 2-3 weeks to provide optimum care with minimal risk.

How long does cataract surgery take?

On the day of surgery, most patients should plan on being at the surgery center for approximately 90 minutes, however, the actual surgical procedure time to remove the cataract and gently insert an intraocular lens takes less than 10 minutes.

Where will I go for my surgery?

For your convenience, most of our cataract procedures are performed on premise in our state of the art Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) in Bellevue. By owning and operating our very own ASC, Specialty Eyecare Centre has the luxury of controlling the environment from the minute a patient enters the facility to when they leave. Sustaining a world class controlled facility in house decreases the possibility of surgical complications to the patient and allows for convenience to the patient and family members by having everything done in one place.

How is cataract surgery performed?

Once the natural lens becomes cloudy and dense it must be removed to restore vision. During cataract surgery the doctor will remove your natural lens and replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens. You do not need to be asleep for the procedure and usually topical drops are all that are needed to make you comfortable during the procedure. Most of our cataract procedure are done in our dedicated Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) in Bellevue. To learn more about the experience and lens options visit www.specialtyeyecarecentre.com or schedule a counseling session with KD Barnebey.

How do I learn about my cataract surgery and premium lens options?

We encourage you to take the first and make an appointment for an exam and counseling session. Together, you and Dr. Barnebey will discuss your eye health and premium lens options thoroughly. After a complete exam, a complete recommendation will be made on how best to proceed. To protect your eyes, remember to always make an appointment for your annual eye exams, eat a healthy diet, reduce your exposure to the sun (even on cloudy days in Washington!), and wear sunglasses for UV protection.

Will I have to wear glasses or contacts after cataract surgery?

As a cataract progresses, you may have an increased need for glasses at near and far. Eventually, not only will it be difficult to see, you may notice everything beginning to look less vivid. Colors will not be as bright. Many people consider this a result of aging, but the good news is, cataract surgery is commonly performed and can reverse these effects of aging. With the help of advanced intra-ocular lens (IOL) technology, Dr. Barnebey can offer patients the ability to see near, far, and in between. FDA approved premium IOL’s ar routinely implanted with excellent results. Together with our Specialty Eyecarè Centre staff and Dr. Barnebey, you can learn what your option are and which IOL will give you the best results.

What is a canaloplasty?

There is new hope in the fight against glaucoma. Canaloplasty is a breakthrough procedure available to help patients who may be frustrated with their medications and aren’t ready for traditional surgery. Canaloplasty is proven to safely lower intraocular pressure (IOP) and dependence on medications. Click here to learn more about canaloplasty.

If you are a patient who is looking to reduce your dependence on your glaucoma medications, a canaloplasty may be an option for you. Call the office at 425-454-3937 and tell the front office you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Barnebey regarding canaloplsty. If you are able to have your appointment in Bellevue, you can also visit our state of the art ambulatory surgery center during your visit and learn more when these procedures take place.

Howard Barnebey is one of only a few ophthalmologists in the northwest who is a cataract surgeon trained in the subspecialty of interventional ophthalmology and has been a leader and pioneer in developing this surgical procedure. Like interventional cardiologists who are trained to use catheter technology to open clogged arteries with angioplasty and stents in the heart, interventional ophthalmologists are eye specialists trained in performing canaloplasty using similar micro-catheter technology to open and stent the natural filtration canal in the eye (Schlemm’s Canal).


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Bellevue, WA 98004
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