Choosing an Eye Doctor
Where do you go when you are having difficulty with your eyesight? Depending on the extent of the problem, your answer may vary. There are several different types of eye doctors and eye specialists you could see, including an ophthalmologist, optometrist, and optician.
Ophthalmologists are eye doctors that specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and visual system, and also the prevention of eye disease and injury. They can be either doctors of medicine (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO).
While medical doctors focus on disease-specific diagnosis and treatment, osteopaths concentrate on the loss of structure and function in different parts of the body due to disease, including the eye. An eye doctor who is an osteopath would give treatment based on the assumption that treating the parts of the visual system with the use of medicines, surgery, diet, and other therapies, will therefore treat the underlying eye problem.
An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor who has completed four years of pre-medical undergraduate education, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and three or more years of specialized medical and surgical training in eye care. As a qualified specialist, an ophthalmologist is licensed by a state regulatory board to diagnose, treat, and manage conditions affecting the eye and visual system. An ophthalmologist is qualified to deliver total eye care, meaning vision services, eye examinations, medical and surgical eye care, diagnosis and treatment of disease, and visual complications that are caused by other conditions, like diabetes.
Optometrists are eye doctors of optometry (OD). They are trained to examine, diagnose, treat, and manage some diseases and disorders of the eye and visual system. The optometrist has completed pre-professional undergraduate education and four years of professional education at an accredited college of optometry. In addition, some optometrists may have completed a one-year optional residency in a specialized area. Optometrists have not attended medical school.
Like ophthalmologists, optometrists are trained to examine the internal and external structure of the eyes to detect diseases such as glaucoma , retinal detachment , and cataracts . Optometrists do not perform eye surgery and are not trained to care for and manage all diseases and disorders of the eyes. The optometrist is trained to diagnose and treat vision conditions such as nearsightedness , farsightedness , astigmatism , and presbyopia . They may also test a person's ability to focus and coordinate the eyes and see depth and colors accurately. Optometrists are licensed by states to examine the eyes to determine the presence of vision problems and visual acuity, prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye exercises, low vision aids, vision therapy, and medications to treat eye diseases.
Opticians are eye healthcare professionals who work with ophthalmologists and optometrists to provide vision services related to the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems and eye disease. They assist optometrists and ophthalmologists in providing complete patient care before, during, and after exams, procedures, and surgeries. With a two-year technical degree, opticians analyze and interpret eye prescriptions; determine the lenses that best meet a persons needs; oversee ordering and verification of eye-related products from start to finish; dispense, replace, adjust, repair, and reproduce previously ordered contact lenses, eyeglasses, and frames.
Eye health is the result of a working partnership between you and your eye healthcare provider. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians work collectively and with the patient to ensure good eye health and life-long vision. You should visit your eye doctor - either an optometrist or ophthalmologist -- for an eye exam at least once a year.