Optometrists and ophthalmologists

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During daily life, many people sometimes feel it is necessary to see an eye care practitioner or eye doctor when they notice blurry vision or other abnormal visual conditions. However, a great portion of people are not clear about the differences between eye doctors. What kind of eye doctor should be chosen? In fact, there are three types of eye professionals or eye care practitioners, namely optometrists, ophthalmologists and opticians. All of these three groups are able to provide eye care services at specific scopes. But only optometrists and ophthalmologists are called eye doctors. Patients who want to make a wise selection should know some details of these three groups.

The business scope of and qualification requirement on opticians

As discussed above, opticians do not belong to the category of eye doctors. And their business scope is greatly limited, compared with optometrists and ophthalmologists. More specifically, opticians are only licensed to fit and sell kinds of eyewear according to the prescription determined by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. In other words, it is illegal for opticians to prescribe medical eyewear products for patients. At the same time, this group is less qualified that they are only required to take an optician training program or a formal training.

What optometrists can do and their qualification

Equivalent to a dentist in educational requirements, an optometrist must get a bachelor degree in science plus a four-year of post graduate training in optometry school. Today, optometrists in the United States are licensed to some clinical rights: vision examination, eyeglasses and contact lenses prescription, low vision care, vision therapy, pre- and post-operative care after a surgery and eye medications prescription. The last one is a recent expansion.

More strict requirements on ophthalmologists and their privilege

The education and training requirements on an ophthalmologist are similar to an oral surgeon. In addition to the above requirements on optometrists, ophthalmologists still have to take additionally one year of internship and a minimum three years of hospital-based residency in ophthalmology. This extra requirement of qualification also entitles them to eye surgeries. Until now, only ophthalmologists have this right.

How to make a decision between optometrists and ophthalmologists

If you just need a regular eye exam, it is just personal preference to choose an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Although many optometrists cover the services including common eye problems and chronic eye diseases, such as dry eye and glaucoma, only ophthalmologists can provide complex diseases diagnosis and treatment, as well as eye surgeries. In this case, if you have been diagnosed with an unusual eye problem such as macular degeneration or cataracts, it is a necessity to visit an ophthalmologist for professional treatment.

Co-management between eye doctors and cross-discipline cooperation

Another common operation is co-management. If the patient’s problem is beyond an optometrist’s ability, he may refer to an ophthalmologist for medical treatment or a surgery. And then the patient is returned to the optometrist for further monitoring and treatment. This creative practice actually enlarges optometrists’ service range and also provides patients with more convenience. Once there is a problem beyond the capability of ophthalmologists, their cooperation between specialists in other fields is critical.

Pay attention to issues of insurance and Medicare

Vision or health insurance is also an influential factor in choosing an optometrist or ophthalmologist, since they may be authorized eye care providers covered by listed vision benefits of an insurance company. You can call the doctor’s office or find their information on the insurance company’s website. You should also be clear that whether you need to submit the insurance claim to the company after receiving eye care from the doctor, as well as the co-payment issue. For old people, Medicare may also help in reducing eye care expense, although it does not cover routine eye exams. But in special cases, part of or the entire cost of an eye exam may be covered.