Choosing an eye doctor

Tips on finding either an optometrists and ophthalmologists.
As far as body parts go, the eyes have it. There's no doubt that good vision is important. As opposed to seeing a regular physician, optometrists and ophthalmologists are specifically trained to deal with eye problems including recommending and prescribing eyeglasses, contacts or surgical procedures. But finding a doctor you trust to deal with something as sensitive as your eyes can be a challenge.

Kudzu.com has local listings for both optometrists and ophthalmologists. But which one should you see?

Know the difference.

Optometrists

    They are primary care physicians who provide care for most eye problems that do not require surgery. They are not medical doctors and are not licensed to perform surgeries.

    While pediatricians will treat eye problems in infants and very young children, making sure the eyes are symmetrical and vision is normal, optometrists generally begin treating patients when they reach kindergarten or first grade and they can identify shapes and letters.

    Ophthalmologists treat glaucoma, eye infections, and cataracts, as well as patients who simply need glasses or contact lenses.

    Because eye problems don't always have a clear cause — for example, patients who can't see clearly may need just glasses or contacts, or they may have a major problem such as diabetes or glaucoma — it's worthwhile to seek the help of an ophthalmologist when you experience problems with your eyes.


Ophthalmologists
    They are medical doctors — they go to medical school and perform many of the same tasks as other medical students, such as delivering babies, completing internships, and treating influenza, for example.

    Then they return to school for specialized training in the medical and surgical treatment of the eye. Many ophthalmologists perform refractive (also called "LASIK") surgery that treats near- and farsightedness.

If you are seeing a doctor for a surgical procedure, make sure you ask some basic questions, such as how many times they’ve performed the surgery and make sure any optometrist you visit is licensed by the Board of Optometry and is able to write prescriptions.


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