Choosing the Right Eye Doctor

There are three types of eye care providers: ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians.

All three types of eye care providers may be involved with providing corrective lenses for common vision problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Ophthalmologists are physicians with medical degrees, designated by an M.D. after their names. This degree typically is bestowed after four years of college, four years of medical school, and four years of training as an intern or resident in a medical facility. They usually handle the surgeries and serious medical diseases.

Optometrists usually receive their doctorate degree after four years of college pre-med courses and four years in an accredited optometry college. These individuals have the designation of O.D. (doctor of optometry) after their names.

Depending on state regulations where they are located, optometrists may be able to diagnosis and manage eye diseases as well as administer certain prescriptions. An optometrist often handles routine eye examinations and prescriptions.

For very young children (6 months up to age 5-7) it is recommended that you choose a pediatric optometrist that emphasizes developmental vision.

Opticians prepare and provide corrective lenses according to prescriptions issued by optometrists and ophthalmologists. Some states have regulations governing qualifications of opticians.

Seek out an optician when you need prescriptions filled for glasses and contact lenses. Opticians also can help you achieve the proper fittings for vision correction lenses.

Look for eye care providers associated with a reputable professional organization that provides continuing education courses. Visiting professional organizations that carry contact information for members on the web is a good way to find an eye care provider in your area.

Other Tips for Finding an Eye Doctor:

  • If you are interested in an advanced medical therapy that may be brand new (only recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), ask if the ophthalmologist participated in the scientific investigation (clinical trial) leading up to approval. This means the doctor probably has more experience with the therapy.
  • When considering a laser vision correction procedure, be wary of advertising that promises excessive discounts or bargains. This is, after all, eye surgery. As one leading ophthalmologist puts it, you don’t hear much hoopla about bargain brain surgery, now do you? Select a surgeon who approaches the procedure with utmost professionalism. Try shopping around, and make sure you choose a surgeon who already has performed many similar procedures (it’s okay to ask).
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