Are all eye doctors the same? Can I go to any type of eye care professional and receive adequate care? The short answer is no. Each type of doctor has worked for a specific level of education and training. They may specialize in one aspect of vision care but not another. To receive the best possible health care, you should know who to call. Identify what you need and book an appointment with the correct type of eye doctor.
However, this is easier said than done. Finding an eye doctor that is right for you can be more complicated than it should be.
Keep reading to understand each type of doctor that cares for the eyes. Learn about their expertise, experience and services. And, know that the doctor’s personal beliefs may also impact their care. Although holistic methods can be effective in eye health, many doctors refuse to recommend them. You should know that medication, surgery and prescriptive lenses aren’t always the only answers. Learn about each doctor and choose the right one for you.
Different Types of Eye Doctors
Opticians – This type of eye care professional is only qualified to fit and dispense glasses, contacts and other vision improvement aids. This also includes artificial eyes. All opticians must be licensed in the state or province in which they practice. They are not licensed to diagnose eye conditions, perform exams or treat conditions. They also cannot write prescriptions for medications. You only need to visit an optician when you want to get a new pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses. Some may also provide glasses repair services.
If you are suffering from pain, irritation, inflammation, or another symptom in the eye, do not go to an optician.
Optometrist – Optometrists are the primary health care providers of the eye care profession. They need a license to practice. To keep their license, they adhere to a strict standard of care. They must graduate from a four-year degree program in optometry which includes on-the-job training.
This then qualifies them to perform eye exams and diagnose conditions. If you are suffering from a symptom in your eyes, book an appointment with your optometrist. After diagnosis, they can help find a treatment plan that works for you. They may prescribe corrective lenses, suggest surgery or teach you some at-home natural vision care techniques. Many optometrist offices also sell glasses and contact lenses.
Although they are a medical doctor, they cannot perform eye surgery.
Behavioral Optometrist – Behavioral optometrists support natural vision improvement programs. Their optometric practices claim to use a “holistic” approach to the treatment of vision and eye conditions. They also address vision information processing problems. The practice of behavioral optometry incorporates various vision therapy methods. It is a complementary alternative medicine practice. If you currently see an eye doctor that doesn’t provide alternative options, consider seeing a behavioral optometrist as well.
Ophthalmologists – These eye doctors have the authority to perform all the tasks of the eye doctors listed above. In addition, they are also the only eye doctors qualified to perform eye surgery. They have an extensive medical degree with more experience and training than the other types. To maintain their qualifications, they must be members of a professional college of ophthalmology. Professional colleges ensure the doctor is providing adequate care and following safety rules and protocols. It keeps them ethical and transparent in their practice.
One common type of eye surgery they do is LASIK. This is a corrective surgery to fix refractive errors in the eyes. They may also perform cataract surgery, glaucoma surgery and corneal transplants, to name a few. Many ophthalmologists solely act as a surgeon whom optometrists send their patients to. In complicated cases where the diagnosis is unclear, an ophthalmologist may get involved.
Choosing Your Eye Doctor
Finding the right eye care professional to perform the procedures you need is important. Don’t settle for the first doctor you find or the one that’s recommended to you. Do your research.
First, understand what you need from a doctor.
If you are noticing a blurriness in your vision, floaters or another symptom, see an optometrist. Book a checkup and ask all the questions you have. Pay attention to the doctor’s patience and empathy when they’re treating you. If you don’t feel comfortable with this doctor, go see a different one. It’s crucial you trust the person assessing your health.
If your existing pair of glasses break and you need a new pair, see an optician. They will have a selection of glasses in different styles with different features. Perhaps you’re interested in prescription sunglasses or transition lenses. Simply bring your prescription to the optician and select the frames you’d like. They can measure and fit the frames to comfortably sit on your ears. They may also have the parts to fix your broken glasses.
More Serious Situations
If you’re sick of being told to wear contact lenses or get surgery, know that you’re not alone. More and more patients seek alternative options to traditional eye care every day. See a behavioral optometrist to learn about natural ways to treat your eye condition.
Lastly, if you’ve decided to get surgery on your eyes, you need an ophthalmologist. Your optometrist will likely recommend an eye surgeon they’ve partnered with. However, you don’t have to go with their connection. Feel free to research all your possible options. Find a surgeon that is experienced in the type of surgery you need. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, read reviews and have a consultation meeting.
You are the only advocate for your health. If you have an eye condition or disorder that needs treatment, educate yourself first. Understand that different perspectives will recommend different treatment options. When getting health advice for your eyes, go to the right level of doctor. An optometrist is the doctor to see to assess your eyes and diagnose your condition. For all other needs, see the descriptions above of what each professional can do.