What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?
An optometrist (OD) is an eye doctor who examines eyes for both vision and health problems, and corrects refractive error by prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses. Optometrists diagnose and treat eye problems and diseases, and prescribe many ophthalmic medications. An optometrist must complete four years of post-graduate optometry school and some complete a residency with advanced study in a specific area of eye care.
An ophthalmologist (MD) is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in the eye. They perform eye exams, diagnose and treat disease, prescribe medication, and perform surgery. Ophthalmologists complete four years of medical school, one year of internship, and a minimum of three years of residency in ophthalmology.
How do I know if I should see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?
Since optometrists are trained in diagnosing and treating eye disease as well as in performing refractions and contact lens evaluations they are experienced in handling most eye care needs. Ophthalmologists are primarily specialists who focus on a certain part of the eye or disorder. An optometrist can monitor eye health and when necessary make a referral to an ophthalmologist if surgery or more advanced medical care is required.
Will I need to have my eyes dilated?
Doctors do recommend a thorough retinal evaluation annually. While the doctor can see a portion of the retina through an undilated pupil, a dilation does enable them a much greater view therefore allowing them to assess the health of the eye more thoroughly. Thanks to technological advances, there are now screenings that allow the doctor a wider view of the retina without drops, such as the Optomap Retinal Exam. The screening allows the doctor to determine if there are signs of retinal problems or disease. If the doctors note signs of problems on the Optomap, a dilation may be necessary to help confirm the diagnosis.
Is my eye exam covered by Medical Insurance?
Depending upon the nature of the visit, medical insurance or vision insurance may be applicable. If your visit is for routine vision with the prescribing of spectacles or contact lenses this would be submitted through your vision plan. If you are being monitored or treated for a medically related eye condition (i.e. – dry eyes, allergy eyes, infections, monitoring of cataracts or retinal disease, etc.), then your medical plan would be billed.
Why do I need an annual eye exam?
There are two primary reasons to have an annual examination with your optometrist even if you are not noticing vision changes. First, very often you many have symptoms that you attribute to something other than a vision or eye health problem. A good example would be headaches. A thorough eye exam can rule out vision or eye health related headaches. Secondly, many eye diseases develop initially without any symptoms (i.e. – glaucoma). An annual exam can help diagnose the earliest stage of an eye disease. Early intervention is critical for effective treatment of many conditions that otherwise could lead to permanent loss of vision, so see your optometrist annually.