Choosing the appropriate eye doctor

Eye health should be a priority for people of all ages. However, it’s easy to forget about eye health until something goes awry. Many eye care professionals recommend comprehensive eye exams every one to two years, depending on age, risk factors and whether a person is currently wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. If a person has been diagnosed with a particular eye condition, diabetes or is recovering from an eye surgery, a doctor may recommend more frequent exams.

Choosing an eye care professional to care for one’s eyes means understanding the different types of vision experts available. Prevent Blindness America, a leading eye health and wellness organization, offers the following information to help consumers distinguish between eye care professionals.

Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a physician who is qualified by medical education, training and experience to diagnose, treat and manage all eye and visual symptom problems. An ophthalmologist is a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) who generally completes four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and a minimum of three years of hospital-based residency in ophthalmology. He or she can perform routine vision services as well as manage medical conditions and perform surgery on the eyes. A pediatric ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in pediatric cases. Opthalmologists may have certain specialties to treat particular conditions, such as diseases of the retina or glaucoma.

Optometrist: An optometrist is a health care professional trained and licensed to provide primary eye care services, such as comprehensive eye examinations and eye health assessments. He or she may be able to perform certain surgical procedures and can guide patients through low vision rehabilitation, contact lenses, and other vision therapies.

Optician: Unlike optometrists and ophthalmologists, opticians are not eye doctors. Rather, opticians are technical practitioners who design, fit and dispense corrective lenses. Opticians use prescriptions from eye doctors to fit and sell eyeglasses and other eyewear. Opticians are an important part of an eye care team. In some areas, opticians must be licensed and complete an optionary training program.

Individuals with eye problems should seek care from skilled and highly trained eye doctors, offers All About Vision. Some eye doctors collaborate as a team to treat patients.

People can find reputable eye care professionals through their insurance companies, by getting referrals from friends and family, and by visiting the American Optometric Association at www.aoa.org/doctor-locator-search?tab=basic.