When an individual feels the need to get their eyes checked from an eye doctor, one is probably planning to consult an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, or an optician. Based on their experience and training, there are various levels of eye care professionals.
Apart from the several doctors associated with eye care, eye care practitioners can also be nurses, medical assistants, and technicians. Let’s discover more about these different levels of eye care specialists and understand each of their roles and responsibilities in detail.
One of the most well-qualified doctors associated with eye care, an optometrist is the one who provides primary vision care. An optometrist’s offerings range from eyesight testing and correction to diagnosing, treating, and managing any kind of changes in the vision.
A person looking to learn optometry needs to attend an optometry school instead of a medical school. The optometry course is of 4 years and includes postgraduate studies to qualify as an optometry doctorate.
What does an optometrist do?
An optometrist would:
- Conduct eye exams and vision tests
- Prescribe and dispense corrective lenses
- Perform specialized surgical procedures
- Provide visual rehabilitation
- Detect and diagnose eye irregularities
Unlike an optometrist, an ophthalmologist needs to attend a medical school. Ophthalmologists are special doctors associated with eye care, who will have at least 8 years of training at a medical school. Ophthalmologists are licensed to practice both medicine and surgery.
What does an ophthalmologist do?
The medical services of an ophthalmologist and an optometrist are somewhat similar such as:
- Prescribing and fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Treating vision complications
- Diagnosing and treating all kinds of eye conditions
- Performing eye surgeries
- Conducting scientific research to the extent of causes and treatments for eye conditions and eyesight problems
Additionally, ophthalmologists also detect certain health problems, which may not be directly related to the eye but are important in a routine eye checkup. As they are unique doctors associated with eye care, they may also choose a sub-specialty ranging from being a cornea specialist or retina specialist to being glaucoma and pediatric specialist.
- Cornea specialist – diagnoses and treats corneal eye complications such as Fuchs’ dystrophy and keratoconus. Such specialists also perform surgeries like refractive surgery and corneal transplant.
- Retina specialist – diagnoses and treats retinal eye conditions. It may involve surgical procedures to repair or detached retinas. Such professionals also treat conditions of the vitreous, a gel-like substance in the eyeball.
- Glaucoma specialist – treats the eye condition glaucoma, which causes fluid build-up within the eyes.
- Neurology specialists – Ophthalmologists that specialize in neurology are called neuro-ophthalmologists. They deal with vision problems related to eye communications with the brain, nerves, etc.
- Pediatric specialist – treats newborns and children with childhood eye complications and other eye problems like misalignment of eyes, vision differences, etc.
Who are the other eye care professionals?
Doctors associated with eye care sometimes require complementary help from other eye care professionals including medical assistants, nurses, and technicians. Let’s see their roles and responsibilities.
- Nurses – Ophthalmic registered nurses are the ones who have taken extra training in eye care. These nurses are capable of injecting medications and assisting with office or hospital surgeries.
- Medical assistants – They perform myriad tests and checkups to help an eye practitioner during an eye checkup procedure.
- Technicians – Ophthalmic technicians or technologists are well-trained assistants who assist doctors with more complex tests and surgeries.
Last, but not the least, an optician is a trained technician who designs and fits visual aids. They assist doctors associated with eye care in:
- Eyeglasses lenses and frames
- Contact lenses
- Other devices to correct eyesight
Opticians are responsible for using prescriptions by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to verify, declare eye fitness, and cater to eye patients with relevant visual aids. Sometimes they might not have the necessary training and expertise to diagnose or treat eyesight problems or other eye conditions.
As we see, optometrists and ophthalmologists are the two most important doctors associated with eye care. They are backed by nurses, medical assistants, opticians, and technicians in enhancing eye care treatment experience for people with eye complications. Additionally, ophthalmologists diagnose and treat all eye conditions, while a few of them continue their training to specialize in particular eye complications.