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Optometrist & Ophthalmologist

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both eye doctors that specialize in eye diseases and vision care. Because eye disease is often the result of other illnesses, internal medicine today requires a comprehensive view of overall health and overlapping medical conditions. There are a couple differences between optometrists and ophthalmologists, however, and they can be meaningful if you’re trying to decide which to see:

  • Optometrists are eye specialists who typically provide primary vision care. They are the doctors who most people visit for sight and vision testing, diagnosis, correction, treatment and continuous management of vision changes. Optometrists have received a doctor of optometry degree after four years of optometry school. They’re also able to diagnose some eye abnormalities and diseases, and they can prescribe medication.
  • Ophthalmologists are doctors who have completed eight years of post-graduate medical school. They have a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD). They differ from optometrists in the diseases and medical procedures they can diagnose and treat. Ophthalmologists are licensed to complete surgeries and treat more complex eye conditions. They often train in a particular eye specialty such as glaucoma, retina, cornea or plastic surgery. Sometimes, ophthalmologists work in research and innovative treatments.

When it comes to the condition of your eyes, find a good general practitioner who meets your needs. Too often, people don’t think about getting regular eye exams, which can lead to unnecessary complications. Regular check-ups with your eye doctor ensure that you catch any developing medical conditions early.

Symptoms That Require Medical Attention

Your eyes are complicated and delicate organs. Your primary care physician doesn’t have the necessary experience or knowledge to adequately diagnose an eye problem. Regular check-ups with a specialist are the best preventative method for catching eye disease early. But don’t wait for your eyes to start giving you trouble. If you suffer any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention with your local Manhattan eye doctor immediately:

  • Bulging eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Decreased vision
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Halos around lights
  • Floaters in your vision
  • Pain in your eyes
  • Redness in an eye
  • Injury to your eye

Certain medical conditions may require you to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist for regular checkups because they put your eyesight and eye health at risk. These conditions include:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid issues

Conditions and Treatments

The best defense against any eye condition is early diagnosis and treatment. If you’re proactive, you can prevent many health issues before they become major problems. Regular eye exams test for such issues as:

  • Vision correction: Your cornea and your lens keep everything in focus. If the shape of your eye changes or isn’t ideal it can cause:
    • Myopia or nearsightedness
    • Hyperopia or farsightedness
    • Presbyopia or difficulty reading due to aging eyes
    • Astigmatism or focus issues due to a problem with your cornea

These vision issues can cause headaches, sensitivity to light, and eye strain. Treatment for refractive errors includes corrective lenses such as glasses or contacts. Sometimes, laser eye surgery is also recommended.

  • Dry eye disease: This is a frustrating eye condition that causes stinging, burning and itching. It can make wearing contact lenses difficult. Sometimes, you can suffer blurred vision and eye fatigue as well. The cause of dry eye disease is your eye’s inability to make enough tears to maintain a comfortable moisture level. This can be due to age, dietary imbalances, eye surgery and certain medications. Your eye doctor diagnoses and treats the uncomfortable symptoms with eye drops while addressing the underlying cause.
  • Diabetic eye health: Blood sugar that remains high for a long period of time can damage your eyes’ health. This is a common issue called diabetic retinopathy and is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.

Treatment includes monitoring and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. If your case is severe enough, you may need diabetic treatments or laser eye surgery. If you are having any difficulty or unusual vision issues and are diabetic, make an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist immediately.

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye): Pink eye is a very common bacterial or viral infection of your eye. It gets its name from its signature pink eye condition that itches, swells, burns and drips. It can be caused by exposure, allergies and contacts. It does not usually cause vision issues, but must be treated by prescription medication from your eye doctor. Conjunctivitis is a very contagious condition; it’s vital to take steps to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma includes a couple of eye diseases that damage your optic nerve. Glaucoma happens when fluid pressure builds up in your eyes; it can permanently injure your eyes. If you let glaucoma go untreated, you first lose peripheral vision. Then your line of sight is gradually reduced until all you have is tunnel vision. Blindness follows.

While there is no cure for glaucoma, your ophthalmologist can help you manage and slow the rate of vision loss. Treatments include eye drops and sometimes surgery.

  • Cataracts: This condition, which is the clouding of your lens, typically occurs with age. Half of Americans either have cataracts or have had surgery for cataracts by age 80. A cataract can occur in one or both eyes, but the condition can’t be spread and isn’t contagious.

Treatment includes glasses and brighter lighting at first, but eventually surgery is needed. As with all eye conditions, prevention and early diagnosis is your best bet, so make regular appointments with your ophthalmologist.

  • Macular degeneration: Macular degeneration is a disease that affects the macula — the part of your eye that allows you to see details. There is a wet and a dry form of the disease. Wet macular degeneration occurs when blood or fluid leaks under the macula. Dry macular degeneration occurs when the light-sensing cells in the macula begin to break down. Both are common in older people. One symptom is that straight lines appear curved or crooked.

Treatment — such as drops and surgery — can slow vision loss, but there is no cure. Your best bet is early detection and treatment.