Eye doctors are healthcare providers who are professionally trained to care for the eyes as well as the entire visual system. There are several different types of eye doctors. Some eye doctors fit patients for corrective lenses, while others perform complex eye surgeries. The type of eye doctor a person should see depends on what kind of eye care she needs.
Optometrists are the general practitioners of eye healthcare. Professional optometrists are trained and licensed to examine, diagnose, treat and manage eye diseases and vision disorders. Optometrists prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. They also identify various eye conditions, such as retinal diseases, glaucoma and cataracts, and treat these disorders with non-surgical methods. Optometrists are not medical doctors, but hold a Doctor of Optometry degree.
Ophthalmologists are eye doctors who specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of the eyes and the visual system. Ophthalmologists are physicians and must have a Doctor of Osteopathy or a Doctor of Medicine degree. They are licensed by the state's ophthalmology board to provide the full spectrum of eye care services, including routine eye exams, corrective lenses and the removal of ocular tumors. Many ophthalmologists specialize in a specific area of eye care, such as cornea and refractive ophthalmology, pediatric ophthalmology or oculoplastics, which is eye socket and eyelid plastic surgery.
Opticians are eye-care professionals who evaluate and fill the prescriptions written by optometrists and ophthalmologists. Opticians help to treat vision disorders and ocular diseases by making, fitting, dispensing, repairing and replacing corrective eye wear, such as contact lenses, glasses, low-vision aids and artificial eyes, or ocular prostheses. Opticians must graduate from a professional training program or complete an apprenticeship. Most states require opticians to be certified or licensed.
Orthopists are specialists who work with ophthalmologists to evaluate and treat eye disorders involving eye movement and eye alignment. Orthopists frequently help patients overcome or manage ocular conditions such as crossed eyes, double vision and lazy eye, or amblyopia. Although orthopists work with patients of all ages, the majority of their patients are school-age children. Orthopists help ophthalmologists develop treatment plans utilizing eye exercises, eye patches, eye drops or special glasses.
Vision and eye health is extremely important, so a patient should be proactive in eye healthcare choices. A routine eye exam every other year will help ensure optimal eye health and vision accuracy. Before making an appointment with any eye doctor, a person needs to make sure the doctor has the training and experience to meet his eye care needs. Someone who needs just a routine eye exam will probably be satisfied seeing an optometrist, while a diabetic should probably choose an experienced ophthalmologist who specializes in retinal care. All eye doctors should be licensed by the state in which they practice.
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