How to Choose a Good Eye Doctor
Choosing the right eye doctor is a crucial step in maintaining optimal vision. Unfortunately, most people people don't even know how to begin the process of comparing eye doctors. There are two primary steps to finding the right eye doctor. First, you'll need to begin by determining which type of eye doctor you'll need to start searching for. Then, you can begin the process of comparing your list of prospective doctors. The following paragraphs cover both of these steps in detail:
Choosing a Type of Eye Doctor
The type of eye doctor you'll need to visit will depend on the current health of your eyes, particularly any preexisting eye conditions you may have. If you have more serous vision care needs, consider the following before choosing which type of eye doctor would be more ideal.
An optometrist is a basic eye doctor that has obtained an undergraduate degree and has completed at least four years of training at an accredited college of optometry. This is the type of doctor you would see if you needed to have an eye exam done and get prescription lenses fitted. Optometrists do not attend medical school and are therefore not qualified to perform advanced eye surgery and medical procedures. However, they are capable of thoroughly examining patients to diagnose most common vision disorders like glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment, vision deficiencies, and age-related macular degeneration.
Optometrists are able to quickly diagnose vision disorders like astigmatism, farsightedness, nearsightedness, and presbyopia. They can conduct all basic vision exams, including tests that determine a person's depth perception, eye movement coordination, focus, and color perception. In some states optometrists can prescribe medications to treat certain eye disorders like conjunctivitis. After diagnosing a serious eye disorder, optometrists often refer patients to an ophthalmologist for specialized treatment. Optometrists also frequently work in conjunction with ophthalmologists to treat patients in the same office.
An ophthalmologist specializes in performing medical and surgical procedures on patients that have serious vision disorders and pre-existing diseases. Ophthalmologists are licensed by regulatory boards within each state and have the ability to treat and diagnose almost all common and rare eye conditions. They also have attended specialized training courses and medical school for at least four years. If you have a pre-existing eye condition and need specialized treatment, you'll most likely need to see an ophthalmologist.
Ophthalmologists can provide medical and surgical care for patients with glaucoma, cataracts, iritis, tumors, chemical burns, and blunt trauma to the eye. In addition, they are well-versed in diagnosing and treating eye disorders caused by related systemic diseases (i.e. – diabetic retinopathy, multiple sclerosis, or optic neuritis). Some ophthalmologists will also provide plastic surgery services to correct drooping eyelids, smooth out wrinkles, improve skin tone, or cover the aftermath of a tumor removal.
So What is an Optician, Then?
Although an optician is an eye care professional with a 1 to 2-year technical degree, they are not actually eye doctors. Instead, they provide assistance in the treatment and diagnostic practices performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, similar to the assistance provided by a hospital technician. Opticians are responsible for taking facial measurements, evaluating lens prescriptions, helping patients decide which lenses and frames would be most suitable, and repairing, adjusting, dispensing, and replacing glasses.
Although the three main types of eye care professionals above have different responsibilities, most practices combine the services of all three to bring the patient the most comprehensive diagnosis and treatment services possible.
Comparing Eye Doctors
Once you're familiar with the different types of eye doctors, you'll want to begin comparing various attributes of prospective doctors to see which one is best for you. Before you begin compiling a list of suitable prospective doctors, you'll want to obtain a list of covered eye doctors from your insurance company to make sure your policy will cover the cost of visits and services rendered. The next step in comparing doctors should be determining their credentials/qualifications. Look for a doctor that has a degree from an accredited medical university, and proudly posts their certificates of graduation and licenses in their lobby for patients to see.
Since most eye doctor's have such credentials, the real comparison begins when you start to examine their expertise and experience. Luckily, it's usually possible to learn about the experience of an eye doctor by conducting a web search on their name. Ideally, you'll want to choose a doctor that is involved with medical research and education, as they'll be knowledgeable about the latest diagnostic and treatment methods for your condition.
After you've narrowed your list a bit, you'll want to begin inquiring about the types of services offered by each doctor. Contrary to popular misconception, choosing an eye doctor with the most diverse service selection is not necessarily the best decision. Many eye doctors specialize in certain diseases, so choosing one that has extensive expertise in treating your condition would be preferable. You can search through the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) database to learn about the certified specializations of each eye doctor. Another great free online resource that can help you build a list of suitable eye doctors is the DocFinder database from Administrators in Medicine (AIM), which has been compiling detailed profiles on doctors since 1996.
Once you're down to a few prospective eye doctors you'll want to base your final decision on the doctor's patient satisfaction history. Perhaps the best way to do this is to utilize good-old fashioned word of mouth. Ask around at your workplace and request the opinions of friends and family about which eye doctor they've enjoyed using in the past.
The final step in determining which eye doctor is right for you is having your own subjective experience with them. Schedule a basic exam and analyse how the doctor and their staff treats you. Ultimately, your opinion of the doctor will have to be formed by your own observations, since you're going to be building a personal long-term doctor/patient relationship with them.