Which Eye Doctor is Right for You?

Are you confused about which eye doctor is right for you? Different eye care providers address a range of patient needs – from fitting eyeglasses to performing invasive surgery. Each also has a different level of education and training. Because one type of provider may be more appropriate for your specific needs than another, it is helpful to know which one to call upon, depending on your specific situation.

Here is a brief outline of the differences between eye care providers.

Optometrist. An optometrist is a healthcare professional concerned with the eyes and related structures. Optometrists prescribe and fit lenses to improve vision. They are not medical doctors, but are licensed to diagnose and treat some conditions of the eye. Optometrists refer to ophthalmologists, retinal specialists and others for further investigation and treatment.

Ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who deals with the anatomy, physiology and some diseases of the eye. An ophthalmologist performs eye exams, prescribes medicines, and performs some general surgical procedures. A common surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmologist is cataract surgery.

Retina Specialist. A retina specialist is a medical doctor specializing in ophthalmology, but who has completed several additional years of training in order to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the retina. Retina specialists are uniquely qualified to treat these entities in adults and children. Some examples of retina conditions include diabetic eye disease, macular degeneration, floaters and flashes, macular hole, macular pucker, retinal tears and detachment, and sudden visual loss.  There are many others as well. Medical treatments and surgical procedures by retina specialists are extremely precise and delicate, and often require a microscope. People with retinal diseases should be evaluated, treated and followed by a retina specialist.

Depending on your particular needs, each of these eye medical professionals can be a valued member of your eye health care team. It is important to learn about the education, credentials, training and experience of each member of your health care team.