You’ve probably heard of glaucoma – a common eye condition that occurs when pressure inside the eye causes damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss in the United States, and unfortunately, any vision that is lost due to glaucoma is permanent. It’s for this reason that prompt diagnosis and treatment is absolutely essential. But to make sure that you get an accurate diagnosis and the very best care, you need to see the right eyecare professional.
There are actually different types of eye doctor, and their roles in diagnosing and treating different eye problems and diseases can vary. Making sure that you see the right professional for the type of problem you are experiencing and ensuring that you get the correct treatment is crucial to prevent any long-term damage to your eye health and vision.
Many people are understandably confused about the difference between different types of eye doctor and what they mean for their care. The simplest explanation is that they all differ in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat.
Opticians can fill the prescription given to you by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, but they can’t give eye exams or prescribe treatments.
Optometrists are qualified eye doctors who can examine the eyes for abnormalities, assess your vision and prescribe corrective lenses.
Ophthalmologists are medically trained doctors that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries in and around the eye. They can do what optometrists do, and are the best qualified professionals to deal with many of the eye diseases that can develop during our lifetime.
Just as you wouldn’t expect a family physician to oversee gallbladder surgery, you wouldn’t necessarily want someone without the in-depth knowledge and experience of glaucoma to treat a complex case of the condition.
Many people are surprised to learn that optometrists can now effectively deal with most uncomplicated and routine cases of glaucoma. This was not always the case, but today, optometrists in most states are licensed to prescribe medications that can be used to treat glaucoma. However, more serious or complex cases of glaucoma may and should still be referred to an ophthalmologist.
Both an optometrist and an ophthalmologist can perform the necessary tests to check for glaucoma and provide an initial diagnosis. If caught early enough, glaucoma can be treated using medications such as pressure-lowering eyedrops, and this could prevent any significant damage to your vision. These eyedrops can almost certainly be prescribed by your optometrist. However, if your glaucoma is advanced, if you already have another eye disease or your optometrist thinks there are further complications, an ophthalmologist has the advanced knowledge and expertise needed to provide that extra level of care and increase the likelihood that you will be treated successfully.
To learn more about glaucoma or book an appointment, call Eye Center of Virginia at (757) 919-3500 to reach our office in Williamsburg, Virginia.