The health of your eyes is usually something you don’t give much thought to until you realize you have a problem with your eyesight. Many times, that problem can be fixed, but the earlier you attend to failing eyesight the better the outcome will be. So, what should you look for when you’re sitting in front of google and typing “Who is the best eye doctor near me?”
Do I Need an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist?
What Is an Optometrist?
An Optometrist is an eye doctor who has studied for and gained a Doctor of Optometry degree. They have completed a four-year college degree in the sciences and have completed another four years of post-graduate training at Optometry school. Optometrists must keep up with practices and training to keep their licenses.
Optometrists can prescribe medications to treat some eye problems, but not all. They’re able to examine your eyes and determine health and they can prescribe contact lenses and eyeglasses.
The laws governing Optometrists and what they are legally allowed to do differ in each state, so you might want to check with your local Optometry board. Some Optometrists can provide vision therapy and care for low vision problems.
Optometrists are not licensed to perform eye surgery however, they are legally allowed to assist in pre-operative and post-operative care.
What Is an Ophthalmologist?
An Ophthalmologist is an osteopathic or medical doctor who specializes in vision and eye care. They can perform eye examinations, diagnose illness, treat illnesses, prescribe all eye medications and perform eye surgery. Like Optometrists, they’re also able to write prescriptions for contact lenses and eyeglasses.
Ophthalmologists must complete a four-year degree in college, then another four years in medical school. After that, they a year-long internship and complete a minimum of three years, hospital-based residency in the ophthalmology department.
What Does an Optician Do?
An Optician takes the prescription that your Optometrist or Ophthalmologist has written and uses it to fit your eyeglasses. In some states, they’re also allowed to fit contact lenses after they have studied to gain certification. Opticians may or may not complete licensing training, it depends on the laws in each state.
How Do I Know Which Eye Doctor I Need?
If you are not aware of any eye problems currently, or in the past, you can choose between an Optometrist and an Ophthalmologist. Both can do eye examinations, and both can diagnose and treat minor eye conditions.
If you suspect, or you have, glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration, you would be best to visit an Ophthalmologist. If your eye problem is particularly serious, an Optometrist and Ophthalmologist may coordinate to take care of your eye health.
10 Tips when Searching for the Best Eye Doctor Near Me
Once you’ve decided whether you need an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist, your next step is to find a suitable eye doctor. We’ve gathered the following tips together to help you choose the best eye doctor for your needs.
- Dr. Google does not have all the answers. Choosing an eye doctor should be a careful process and often the best way to find a good one is to ask for referrals. Your pediatrician or doctor may have a recommendation for you and other family members and friends might also know of someone who is good.
- Consult the experts. If you can’t find anyone suitable through referrals contact the American Academy of Ophthalmology or the American Optometric Association. Both have informational websites and online tools available to answer your “best eye doctor near me” questions.
- Does your insurance provider pay for this person and treatment? We’d all like to be able to visit a medical professional without having to worry about the cost, but the fact is, price is often a determining factor in even our health decisions. You need to make sure your insurance will cover the eye doctor you’ve chosen. Medicare will cover most eye Doctors who are seeing elderly people, but younger people may have to pay for some of their treatment or preventative visits themselves.
- What kind of referrals can the eye doctor make? At first, glance that may seem irrelevant, but you need to know that if your eye doctor discovers any problems they are not able to manage themselves, they will be able to refer you to other specialists. Ask which professional organizations they belong to as this can give you an idea of their professional network. If they’re not a member of a professional group do you still want to see them?
- Are you able to get to your eye doctor’s practice easily or will you need some help? This is a concern particularly for older people and those with limited eyesight. The eye doctor that is closest to you in the area may have three flights of stairs in front of his office. If you aren’t physically able to climb three flights of stairs, ask if the doctor can make a recommendation for someone else.
- Be prepared when you attend your first consultation. You’ve found an eye doctor you think you’ll like and you’ve made your appointment for your first consultation. Don’t celebrate too soon, your search for the best eye doctor isn’t over yet. When you attend your first appointment make sure you take your eyeglasses with you, even if you don’t wear them often, or they’re no longer strong enough. Take a prepared list of any medications you are taking, any health issues or allergies, and a list of any questions you may have. Don’t forget your insurance information.
- Take note of your surroundings. Is the examination area clean? Are there appropriate certificates on the wall? Does the practice appear to have enough staff members? These things may sound like petty consideration but when you’re seeking treatment to maintain or correct your eye health, you want to know that your eye doctor takes the process as seriously as you do. Cleanliness, qualifications, and the right amount of staff show that the eye doctor has given attended to the smaller details.
- Does the eye doctor listen to you and answer all your questions? We’ve all been to medical appointments where the doctor treating you shows very little interest in your care. Remember that although the eye doctor is an expert in his field, you are the expert in you, so take note that the doctor is taking any concerns you have seriously and that he has answered your questions in a manner that ensures you understand.
- Does the eye doctor advise you on what you should do next? Follow up care is as important as your initial consultation particularly if you need further treatment. A good eye doctor will schedule any follow-up appointments that are needed and advise you where to go next if you need to see an Optician. They should also give you advice on how to care for your eyes and what to do if you experience reactions to any medication you’ve been given.
- Give yourself some time to evaluate. For example, if the eye doctor you visited gave you eye drops that he swore would fix your eye problem, you need to allow a reasonable amount of time to see if the drops work. After all, there’s no point continuing to visit an eye doctor because their office is situated close to you if their care isn’t up to a high standard.
A final consideration to complete your best eye doctor near me search is to ask yourself if you would be happy to visit the practice again. It is recommended that a complete eye examination is done every two years, on eyes that have not had any previous issues.
Children should also have their eyes examined every two years, more if they seem to be experiencing problems. Good eyesight is essential in gaining an education, so you want to pick up any problems and attend to them as soon as possible.
Seniors over the age of 61 years should see an eye doctor every year. If there’s a family history of eye problems or other conditions such as Diabetes, the time between eye doctors should lessen to six months or however long the specialist suggests.