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How to Choose the Right Eye Doctor

Smiling male optometrist with glasses adjusting an eye test machine

Seeing your eye doctor for regular eye exams is one of the best ways to maintain healthy vision. However, choosing eye care professionals isn’t always easy. You’ll need to make sure your new practice provides excellent care and a broad range of services, and that’s just the beginning.

We’ve been providing vision care resources in New Freedom, PA for a long time, so we know what an effective optometry practice should offer. Read this guide and learn what to look for when selecting a new eye doctor for yourself and your family.

Know the Different Types of Eye Doctor

Not all eye doctors offer the same services. Optometrists and ophthalmologists each do different things, and opticians aren’t doctors at all! Knowing what each of these positions entails will help you pick a practice with professionals who can meet your needs.

Optometrists: the “General Practitioners” of Eye Care

An optometrist provides primary vision care to patients. They must hold a Doctor of Optometry degree but are not technically medical doctors. As such, an optometrist cannot perform surgery or practice medicine. However, they can practice optometry, which involves:

  • Conducting eye exams
  • Conducting vision tests
  • Prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses
  • Identifying abnormalities within the eye
  • Prescribing medications for specific diseases that affect the eye

All adults with healthy vision should see an optometrist at least once every two years. Most practices recommend annual visits to detect early signs of severe conditions so that the optometrist can correct them before they cause irreversible problems.

Children should see an optometrist several times before starting school, and then once every two years until adulthood. Adults and children who experience ocular problems will likely need to see their optometrist on a more frequent basis.

Ophthalmologist performing laser eye surgery on female patient wrapped in gauze

Ophthalmologists

Since optometrists cannot perform surgeries, many optometry practices also include an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are eye and vision care specialists who are licensed to practice surgery and medicine. Their responsibilities include:

  • Diagnosing eye diseases
  • Performing surgeries (including LASIK)
  • Doing scientific research that helps other eye doctors advance their medical knowledge

An ophthalmologist can also prescribe and dispense corrective lenses. However, if a practice has both an optometrist and an ophthalmologist, the optometrist usually fills this role.

Opticians

Opticians are valuable members of many eye care practices. However, they are not doctors of any kind. An optician’s job is to fill the prescriptions issued by optometrists or ophthalmologists. They often help patients choose frames and lenses.

Look for the Services You’ll Need

Almost every practice can perform eye exams for children, adults, and seniors. However, not every practice employs ophthalmologists to perform surgeries or opticians to dispense frames and corrective lenses.

Different practices also carry different kinds of equipment, which can affect the procedures they offer. For example, practices that do not have intense pulsed light machines may be limited in their ability to treat evaporative dry eye disease.

Of course, it’s not always possible to predict the type of eye care you will need in the future. For that reason, we recommend looking for a practice equipped to provide a wide variety of different services.

A Note on Insurance

Not all practices offer direct billing to the same insurance companies. We recommend checking in advance to make sure your preferred practice accepts your medical insurance.

In many states, Medicaid can help cover the costs of routine eye exams or corrective lenses. However, not all practices accept Medicaid. Click here to view a table explaining Medicaid coverage for vision in every state.

Note also that most public vision care policies do not cover cosmetic procedures such as LASIK. Ensure your insurance is adequate and up to date before committing to a new practice or arranging a medical procedure.

Other Considerations

Before deciding on a new eye doctor, it’s a good idea to see what other people say about them. Ask your current practitioner for recommendations if you have one, and read online reviews to see what patients are saying.

It’s also worth contacting your prospective new eye doctor and speaking to a staff member at their practice who can answer your questions. Make sure to ask about their availability so that you can look forward to getting help quickly if you need it. Employees at most practices will be happy to speak with a prospective new patient—and if they aren’t, that tells you a lot about their availability all by itself.

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  • Written by: Bryan MacDonald

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