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If you have any new concerns about your own or your family’s vision, it can be a worrying time. Good vision and eye health are so important to every aspect of our lives, and even small changes can affect our day to day lives greatly.
If you have recently experienced problems, or know it’s been a while since your eyes were last checked, you will be looking for help from an eye doctor. Finding one can be a daunting task. With something as precious as your family’s eyesight, you want to be assured that you will be in very safe, very capable hands.
The first stage of your search will probably be to do some online research. There may be several clinics in your area claiming to be the best eye center. How do you begin to work out which is the right option for you and your family from their website? Here are 5 helpful questions to ask yourself as you go about your research.
1. Is this eye doctor an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?
You’ll soon notice that eye doctors describe themselves as either optometrists or ophthalmologists. Both are fully-qualified medical professionals, with both similarities and differences. Which kind of eye doctor do you need? Here’s how they differ.
Optometrists are doctors of optometry, which is the practice of being able to examine the eyes and identify and treat vision problems and eye diseases non-surgically.
A fully-qualified and registered optometrist will have undergone many years of university-level academic study and clinical training in this profession. They can:
- Perform eye examinations and vision tests.
- Diagnose and treat many eye conditions, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
- Use a variety of specialist instruments for diagnosis and treatment.
- Prescribe standard eyeglasses and contact lenses as necessary.
- Make more specialist prescriptions including Ortho-K lenses and Scleral Contact lenses.
Ophthalmologists offer similar services in terms of diagnosis and prescription. However, they offer additional specialisms in medical eye care and are also licensed surgeons.
Ophthalmologists will have trained in general medicine before receiving further specialist education and training in eye health and eye surgery. As such, they are very knowledgeable professionals with years of very rigorous training behind them.
Their expertise means they are excellent people to turn to when other medical conditions begin to affect eye health, as is common in conditions such as diabetes, or after an accident that causes damage to the eye or surrounding area.
Ophthalmologists can offer:
- Surgical procedures for trauma, cataracts, glaucoma, eyelid disorders, keratoconus, and many more.
- Laser eye surgery.
- Full medical eye care.
- Diagnostics and treatment of eye conditions.
- Full vision services including eye exams.
Not sure whether you need an optometrist or ophthalmologist? In reality, they often work in partnership in eye clinics. This means you will always be getting the best care possible, no matter what lies ahead for either your eye health or general health.
2. Can you check the qualifications and experience of each doctor in the clinic?
Information on the qualifications and expertise of their eye doctors should be easily available on the website of any good eye clinic. Check the ‘about us’ or staff profiles pages. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists should share when and where they got their medical degrees and other professional qualifications.
If they qualified several years ago or more, you should also check that they continue to update their professional knowledge. Optometry and ophthalmology are constantly evolving with better tools for diagnoses and improved treatments.
You need to be sure that this eye clinic will be able to help you access these if necessary. Eye doctors may further their knowledge through additional qualifications and training but also through conference attendance. They may also be conducting research in their specific areas of expertise which they present through academic papers and conference presentations.
3. Are these eye doctors fully registered with the relevant authorities?
As well as individual educational qualifications, eye doctors need to be registered with the appropriate local, regional or national authorities. For example, an eye clinic in Dubai should be registered with the Dubai Health Authority. This rule seeks to ensure that eye clinics:
- Maintain the highest degree of professionalism.
- Adhere to ethical codes governing the profession.
- Follow federal laws.
- Seek to provide the best international-standard practices in terms of both safety and quality.
4. Do they offer the services you and your family specifically need?
If you have no immediate concerns, then asking for a general eye exam with either an optometrist or ophthalmologist is the right move. All eye clinics offer this service and you will leave with an up-to-date picture of your eye health. If the eye doctor raises any concerns regarding you or your family’s vision or eye health, they will be able to suggest and perform appropriate treatments within the clinic.
If you already know you have specific conditions that affect your vision or your eye health, then you will need to arrange an appointment with an eye doctor who is qualified to give you the very best care.
This may sometimes mean you need to see an ophthalmologist rather than an optometrist. If you anticipate needing eye surgery, then you should also approach an ophthalmologist.
Good eye clinics should have plentiful information on the services they offer and the specialties of their doctors.
5. Do they have good patient satisfaction rates and online reviews?
Good reviews, both on and offline, will help you find a good eye doctor. As well as receiving recommendations from trusted friends, family, and colleagues, always double-check online reviews too. This should highlight how well-thought-of the eye clinic is. You should feel reassured by finding plenty of satisfied and delighted patients.
Once you’ve completed thorough background research on the expertise, registrations, and reputation of the various eye doctors near you, you should now feel ready to make an appointment with the eye clinic of your choice. Hopefully, you will have found an eye doctor who will be able to keep your vision and eye health in safe hands for many years.
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