Problems with vision can happen to all of us, and when they do – we require professional assistance. Eyes are very delicate organs, and we cannot perform any “repair” by ourselves on this part of our body, which means that experts and their capabilities are something we rely on. That is why it is important to know which types of doctors exists, and which one of them will be the best option to solve your predicament or problem. If the problem is discovered in its early stages, doctors will have a much easier task of repairing your vision or healing the condition. However, most people will wait until the last possible moment before they visit a doctor, and this causes a whole series of problems later on. Therefore, as soon as you notice any unusual situations or problems with your vision – consult one of the following experts.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists are eye care professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems. Although they both are eye doctors who are required to diagnose eye diseases and disorders of the visual system, they have a unique training to provide different forms of treatment to help children and adults with vision problems.
Ophthalmologists are eye physicians (M.D.’s) who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases. There are approximately 15,000 ophthalmologists in the United States. The education of these doctors consists of 4 years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and three years of residency training. Some ophthalmologists attend fellowship programs where they gain additional training and experience in specific sub-specialties such as pediatrics, strabismus, and neuropharmacology, diseases of the vitreous and retina, and refractive surgery.
Optometrists are eye doctors who earn a doctorate in optometry (O.D.). There are over 30,000 optometrists in the United States who specialize in the non-surgical treatment of vision problems by using glasses, contact lenses, low vision aids, vision therapy, and medications. Optometrists do not perform surgery and refer patients who require surgery to ophthalmologists. The education of optometrists includes four years of undergraduate school and four years of optometry school.
Optometry school is different than the faculty of medicine in that it concentrates on the physiology, neurology, and processes of vision to train optometrists how to diagnoses and treat eye diseases and disorders of the visual system. Some optometrists attend residency and fellowship programs to gain additional experience in the fields of pediatrics, low vision, ocular disease, and vision therapy.
In the past, patients with vision problems would seek the care of optometrists and ophthalmologists. Before 1980, most optometrists were not trained to use medications to diagnose eye disease, and they primarily fit patients with glasses. Today, optometrists use medications to diagnose and treat eye disease and are considered to be the primary eye care professional in the health care system. HMO’s and managed care systems refer patients with vision problems to optometrists for their initial examinations.
Optometrists treat vision problems with medications, glasses, and contact lenses. Other times, optometrists will refer patients to ophthalmologists for surgery. In cases where more specialized ophthalmological care is needed, patients will be referred to doctors who have sub-specialties in neuro-ophthalmology, ocular oncology, pediatric strabismus, and other specialties. Ophthalmologists may also refer patients to low vision specialists when their patients’ vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/40 after surgery.
Opticians are professionals who fill the prescriptions written by optometrists and ophthalmologists. They may grind lenses, fill prescriptions, fit glasses, and some sell over the counter magnifiers. Also Opticians are not licensed to measure vision, diagnose disorders of the eyes or visual system, nor are they allowed to prescribe glasses, contact lenses, medications, vision therapy, or low vision aids.