Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, and Retina Specialist: Which one do you need?

Can you imagine going through the world without your sense of sight? Without it, you would literally be going about the world blind, unable to see the majesty of life. Unfortunately, while having perfect eyesight is ideal, the reality is that six out of 10 people are vision impaired, and would need the help of glasses, contact lenses, or corrective eye surgery to see properly.

Yet while many of those who have vision problems can simply get corrective glasses to see clearly, there are some people whose eye problems would need more sophisticated care than what glasses can provide. For these people, they would seek the help of eye professionals.

Do you know which one to go to?

Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist

The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus differentiates the two by saying that ophthalmologists are medical doctors who can diagnose and treat all eye diseases, as well as perform surgery and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses.

On the other hand, optometrists are “healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes.”

However, there are instances when the eye problem would require even further specialized care. For these situations, retina specialists are called in.

Retina Specialists

Retina specialists are ophthalmologists who sub-specialized in vitreoretinal medicine. They diagnose, evaluate, and treat conditions that affect the retina, particularly the vitreous region or the gel in the back of the eye. To explain it clearly, they do not provide basic eye care such as evaluating vision problems and prescribing eyeglasses, but focus on treating patients who have serious retinal diseases or problems in the vitreous gel or the back portion of the eye.

Aside from completing four years of medical school, retina specialists also have to go through vitreoretinal training. They allot a minimum of nine years of their live to pursue medical school, internship, their ophthalmology residency, and retina-vitreous fellowship to be included in this prestigious lineup of eye physicians.

The American Society of Retina Specialists explains that “a retina specialist is a highly trained subspecialist with special skills to diagnose and treat specific parts of the complex human visual system. A diagnosis of retina and vitreous disease should prompt a thorough examination that may require highly technical equipment and testing.”

The organization further explains that “the medical treatments and surgical procedures used by retina specialists are extremely exacting and delicate,” which thereby iterates the need for specialized training. Retina specialists also require precision, as they have to work on minute regions and perform specialized work on delicate tissues. Aside from performing microsurgical surgeries, retina specialists also treat a wide variety of conditions that include macular degeneration, cancers of the eye, and retinal detachment, among others.

The Bottom Line

So when you need to get your prescription glasses changed, you need to go to an optometrist. For problems in the front areas of the eye or mild sight problems, you need to visit an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist would determine if your case would require the attention of a retina specialist.

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