Eyes are precious, so one must consult the right people at the right time regarding any kind of eye problems. As there are many professionals qualified to diagnose and treat different eye-related problems, you may get confused about approaching the right one.
The earliest references of cataract surgery dating back to fifth century BC were found in a Sanskrit manuscript. Sushruta a Hindu surgeon in India developed the instruments and performed the surgeries. He compiled the information in Sushruta Samhita which means Sushruta's Encyclopedia.
Eyes are the windows to our souls.
Eyes are also the miracles that fill our external experiences with tangible pictures and colors. Taking proper care of this beautiful gift is of utmost importance. Correct and timely medical treatment is essential for any minor or major ailment of eyes.
Not just doctors, but other eye care professionals also help in diagnosing and treating various eye ailments. Let us learn about the different types of eye specialists that can be consulted if the need arises. Depending on your complaint, you may approach the concerned medical practitioner.
The eye care professionals who look after the medical and surgical treatment of the eyes are referred to as ophthalmologists. They help in maintaining the overall health of eyes.
Surgical treatment involves any specific or general type of operations that have to be performed if required. The two common type of surgeries conducted by an ophthalmologist include phacoemulsification for cataracts and elective refractive surgeries.
A specific surgery known as Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) is generally prescribed for younger patients, in their thirties and forties for the correction of myopia, astigmatism and hypermetropia.
Ophthalmologists are specialists who diagnose specific diseases of the eyes, and offer treatments for them. To be a professional ophthalmologist, one needs to have four years of college education, four years of medical schooling, one year of internship, and three or more years of specialized medical and surgical training in eye treatment through a residency.
One should then pass the exam conducted by the State. After all this, one gets a licensed approval from the concerned authority of the State, which establishes them as professional experts. In order to get a board certification for their specialty they need to pass the exams conducted by the American Board of Medical Specialists.
An ophthalmologist is qualified for complete eye care. He can, through examination, diagnose any possible eye-related complications. He also helps to diagnose eye ailments caused by other diseases like diabetes.
Sub-specialties of ophthalmology include pediatric ophthalmology, ocular oncology and cornea.
Other sub-specialities are external disease, glaucoma, uveitis and ocular immunology, cataract and refractive surgery, vitreoretinal medicine, ophthalmic plastic surgery, neuro-ophthalmology, ophthalmic pathology, etc.
On the advice of an ophthalmologist and optometrist, a patient may have to consult a retinal specialist, who can provide help in matters of acute retinal problems.
It is an important sub-specialty of ophthalmology and is also known as vitreoretinal medicine. After their ophthalmology residency, retinal specialists have to complete a retina-vitreous fellowship for one or two years. Retina is a small structure at the back of the eye. Problems associated with the retina could sometimes lead to blindness.
Age-related problems, like muscular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are the two major treatments offered by them. They also treat retinal pigmentation and retinal detachment. They undertake surgery for the repair of the ruptured globe, diabetic vitrectomy, macular pucker vitrectomy, and retinal detachment.
The scope of practice of optometrists varies from State to State. Optometrists must complete four years of undergraduate education followed by four years of postgraduate program at an accredited college.
In order to enroll for the Doctor of Optometry program, they must appear for the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). Upon completion of the accredited program in optometry, they get the Doctor of Optometry degree.
Optometrists put the initials (O.D. - Oculus Doctor) as their designation. Then they have to pass the exam conducted by National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO). They then undertake one or two years of residency and train in various sub-specialties. They need to undergo training from time to time to keep abreast with the latest trends.
Optometrists conduct vision tests and eye examinations, prescribe medications for eye ailments and dispense corrective eye wear like contact lenses and glasses. They can detect an individual's ability to identify colors and check for common defects such as shortsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia and astigmatism.
They can also examine the front and back structures of the eye for major ailments such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. They refer the patients to ophthalmologists if their condition is serious and beyond the scope of their treatment.
They may also perform surgical techniques like removal of foreign body from the eye, corneal injury, lumps and bumps around the eye, etc. The States of Oklahoma and Kentucky allow State-certified optometrists to perform certain laser surgeries.
Low Vision Specialist
These specialists are basically Doctors of Optometry who are specially trained to help people with low vision impairments. Some of them may be ophthalmologists with an additional specialization in low vision care.
These professionals do not provide any treatment but help the patient to retain and utilize the remaining vision to its full potential. They examine the patient through a series of visual tests that go beyond the regular eyeglasses examinations.
Other Eye Care Professionals
After seeking advice from an ophthalmologist, an individual can consult an orthoptist who helps in the treatment of disorders of eye muscles, movement and coordination. They deal with binocular vision, that is the ability to use both eyes effectively. Orthoptists also help people with strabismus (abnormal alignment of eyes) to correct the problem.
After an undergraduate degree, an individual wanting to be an orthoptist receives two years of training certified from the American Orthoptic Council (AOC). After completing the Orthoptic fellowship, one has to acquire the national certification as an orthoptist by appearing for written and practical examinations.
Orthoptists have to serve patients with problems such as diplopia (double vision), stereopsis (depth perception), amblyopia (lazy eye), nystagmus (wiggly eyes), ocular motility, headaches and strain in eyes while reading. Orthoptists can assist in surgical treatments carried by ophthalmologists.
They also provide non-surgical support like patches, drops, fusion exercises, etc. They are also familiar with working on many optical devices like lenses, prisms and glasses so that they can help people with poor vision.
Pediatric orthoptists focus on children and their eye problems. Both ophthalmologists and orthoptists can assist a child with learning disabilities to go through a 'vision therapy program'.
A person who assists the ophthalmologists and optometrists in providing eyeglasses and contact lenses based on their prescription is known as an optician.
He takes measurements for the width and thickness of the corneas of people. He helps them choose eyeglass frames and lenses. He is expected to assist the patient during and after the treatment, help him recover, and keep an 'eye' on his well-being.
An optician usually has a 2-year associate's degree in opticianry. There is also a 1-year program which offers a certificate course. An optician has to be certified by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) to fill a prescription ordered by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. He also needs to appear for an exam by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE).
License is mandatory in 23 States of the US for practicing as an optician. He can undertake internship to learn more. He is qualified to prescribe the types of contact lenses that best suit a person. He is responsible for looking after the entire process of maintenance and verifying eye-related products. He also ensures that the eyeglasses fit you well.
For our eye problems, we have many options to choose from among various professionals. Before choosing any eye professional, do inquire from other people who have visited the clinic earlier. Also cross-check the person's qualifications, experience, patient satisfaction and facilities offered by him at laboratories and clinics.