How to Choose an Optometrist & Ophthalmologist

Story by Amanda Blair 

Many people think the only reason to see an eye doctor is if you are having trouble with your vision, but there are other critical reasons to get regular eye exams from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can provide primary vision care related to sight and spot early warning signs of diseases. While optometrists are able to perform most exams and general care, ophthalmologists have more extensive capabilities related to surgeries and treatment and may engage in co-care with optometrists. Though selecting an optometrist or ophthalmologist is usually a matter of personal preference, the key concern is that you’re comfortable with your choice and keep up with regular preventative care.

When it’s time to select an optometrist or ophthalmologist, check with your network of friends and family for recommendations.

Do your loved ones know someone they can suggest? If not, you can ask your primary care doctor or optometrist to refer you. You can also search for eye doctors through the websites of the American Academy of Optometry or the American Academy of Ophthalmology. You might also check with your insurance to verify any potential selection is in your network.

Verify the credentials of the optometrist or ophthalmologist. Do they have board certification? What about specific expertise, such as a subspecialty fellowship? Conduct an internet search, checking for any instances of malpractice

Look for a history. When you want to know if someone has highly developed skills, one way to verify expertise is through experience. Will an optometrist suit your needs, or do you have a condition for which you need an ophthalmologist? If so, ask your potential eye doctor how much background they have in treating the disease. Do you require an operation? Talk to the doctor about the number of times they have completed the procedure. Also, ask them for complication rates, so you understand how you might be at risk.

Once you have selected a professional that seems strong to you, it is time to set an appointment. When you get home from the eye doctor, review how well they met your needs. How long was your wait? If your wait time was especially long, ask the staff for the average wait time, so you know if that is typical. Did your time with the doctor feel rushed, or was the examination calm and thorough? You want to feel that the optometrist or ophthalmologist is not so busy that they fail to give you appropriate attention. Did the doctor listen to you and answer your questions carefully?

It is important to know that you can communicate well with your provider. How do you feel about the appointment? If the doctor or practice for any reason made you uncomfortable, it is wise to seek another provider. After an initial appointment, review the office visit, and try someone else if your expectations are not met. Vision and eye health are keys to quality of life, so you want to feel confident in your choice.