Scheduling an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist is essential regarding your eye health. Eye specialists also encourage regular visits as this way, you can learn about the condition of your eyes and they can help diagnose potential eye diseases as well. It is also a wise decision as frequent appointments with an eye specialist cannot only protect your eyesight but can help you maintain a healthy vision throughout your life.
However, should you consult an optometrist or ophthalmologist? This is indeed confusing and it is important to know who to go to for a routine checkup or a thorough diagnosis.
An optometrist has a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. They can examine your eyes and provide information regarding eye health problems as well. Moreover, they can prescribe eyeglasses and/or contact lenses depending on the condition of your eyesight. An optometrist excels at providing vision therapy and care in case of poor eyesight. You can also refer to an Optometrist regarding pre and post operative care after an ophthalmologist has performed eye surgery. Despite being a professional practitioner, optometrists cannot perform surgery.
An ophthalmologist is a Doctor of Osteopathic medicine (DO) or a medical doctor (MD), and specializes in treating eye diseases and weak vision. They are trained to diagnose eye diseases, prescribe medication in this regard and perform surgeries. Moreover, an ophthalmologist can also prescribe contact lenses and eyeglasses after a thorough examination.
Choosing an Optometrist and Ophthalmologist
To select an eye specialist, you need to determine whether you are opting for a routine checkup or if you have a serious eye problem. Both eye specialists can perform routine eye examinations so decision making in this regard is entirely up to you. If you are suffering from eye problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration, or glaucoma, it is recommended to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist as these serious medical conditions may require a surgery.
If you’re opting for an eye specialist regarding common problems like eye infections or dry eyes, an optometrist can do the job for you. If they diagnose that you are developing a risk of chronic eye disease like glaucoma, they will recommend an experienced ophthalmologist to you.
However, there are severe medical conditions where both an ophthalmologist and optometrist work together – a practice referred to as co-management. In this case, an optometrist refers you to an ophthalmologist; and after diagnosing an eye disease, they will develop a treatment plan or surgery for you. Once you are surgically treated, you will be sent to your primary eye doctor again for post-operative care specifically recommended by an experienced specialist.
The co-management phase is effective when it comes to treating eye diseases via surgery that cannot be performed without an ophthalmologist. However, for routine examination, an optometrist is always there for you.