Eye doctor term is often used to mention slightly different professions related to eye care. If you want to take eye exams, which eye care professional should you visit: an ophthalmologist, an optometrist or an optician?
A survey of National Consumers League (NCL) shows consumers are confused about the differences among eye care providers. There are opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists that serve a broad range of eye patient’s needs. Their services may include eye examination, contact lens fitting and laser eye surgery.
The selection of the right eye care professionals depends on the type of services you need. To find the appropriate eye care provider you should consider his or her credentials. These professionals have different backgrounds and their practices are determined by varying levels of regulation.
Before choosing a provider understand their differences first. While you may value cost, relationship, and convenience high; the education, training and experience of an eye care provider are also essential.
Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians
Are all of them eye doctors? All eye care providers may be involved with providing contact lenses for common vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. Opticians provide the most limited amount of service while ophthalmologists provide all services within the eye care profession.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (M.D.) who specialize in all aspects of eye health. They provide eye exams, treat eye disease, prescribe medications, and perform eye surgery. They may also write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Ophthalmologists must have a college degree, four years of medical school, and four years of training as a resident in a hospital. As medical doctors, ophthalmologists are regulated by state medical boards. They must then pass a licensing examination. You would need an ophthalmologist for surgeries and treating eye diseases.
Optometrists (O.D.) provide primary eye care, such as eye exams and prescriptions. They examine eye problems such as presbyopia and diagnose eye disease such as glaucoma. They prescribe many ophthalmic medications and participate in your pre- and postoperative of your eye surgery.
Optometrists must have a Doctor of Optometry degree, followed by four years at an accredited optometry school. They must pass state optometric board exam to receive a license and are regulated by board of optometry for their license renewal. You would need an optometrist for enhancing and improving your visual functions.
Opticians are not eye doctors. They fit eyeglasses and sunglasses, following prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists. They can become certified and licensed to fit contact lenses.
Opticians are licensed after they have earned either an associate opticianry degree or after they have apprenticed for at least two years. Certification is awarded after passing a licensing exam by the American Board of Opticianry. In some states, opticians must pass the National Contact Lens Examination to dispense contact lenses. You would need an optician for filling glasses and contact lens prescriptions.
Finding the Right Eye Care Professional
Eye care professionals term can be confusing. For example, some optometrists refer to themselves as optometric physicians. Traditionally, only medical doctors are referred to as physicians. While optometrists offer valuable services, they are not medical doctors.
Use the following tips to help you prepare before visiting your eye doctor:
- Know your eye care needs: contact lens fitting (optometrists) or eye surgery (ophthalmologists)?
- Ask the professionals if they have the credentials: optometry school (optometrists) or medical school (ophthalmologists).
- Know how experience they perform the procedure: where they learned, how many times they have performed the service, success/failure rate.
- How easy they can be accessed: the nearby optometrists could satisfy your needs for a vision check for contacts, an ophthalmologist is likely worth for serious diseases.
- If you consider a laser eye surgery select an eye doctor who is also a professional eye surgeon instead of one that promises excessive discount.
- Contact the state agency that oversees the conduct of the provider: Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry for optometrists, and Federation of State Medical Boards for ophthalmologists.