Eye doctors aren’t just for people who need glasses or contacts—they help everyone protect their vision and prevent vision loss. But with different eye doctors available (and with similar names), it can be hard to make the right choice.
Here’s a clear view of how to choose an eye doctor.
There are 2 basic types of eye doctors: optometrists and ophthalmologists. Opticians are also trained to help with eye care, but unlike ophthalmologists, they’re not medical doctors (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO).
Here’s a breakdown of what each eye care doctor can do for you:
Optometrists perform eye exams and vision tests. They also detect eye abnormalities and prescribe and dispense corrective lenses and medications for eye diseases. Optometrists are not medical doctors—they have a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. They receive a license to practice optometry after finishing 3 or more years of college and 4 years of optometry school.
An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. As a medical doctor who completed college and at least 8 years of training, an ophthalmologist is also licensed to practice medicine and perform surgery. Some ophthalmologists take additional training, known as a fellowship, to specialize in certain areas like glaucoma, pediatrics or plastic surgery.
For general eye care, an optometrist or ophthalmologist are both good options. Each can give you an eye exam and prescribe medicines, glasses or contacts.
For serious eye problems, you may want to see an ophthalmologist. They’re licensed to perform surgery and may specialize in the exact type of eye care you need.
Taking the time to find the best eye doctor is worth it. Consider these tips as you begin your search:
- Look for in-network doctors—If you have a vision insurance plan, look for in-network eye doctors near you. This can help you get the most benefits and pay fewer out-of-pocket costs.
- Ask for referrals—Reach out to friends, family members and coworkers for referrals. If you have a special need, the optometrist or ophthalmologist who provides your routine eye care can likely refer you to a specialist.
- Read reviews—Most doctors know their profession, but some may not have good communication skills or bedside manner. Search for online reviews of doctors and their office staff to see what current and former patients have to say.
- Research availability—The office hours and location should be convenient for you. The doctor or office staff should also be easy to reach via phone or email.
- Visit their office—Once you’ve found 1–2 eye doctors you like, visit their office in person. This will give you a chance to meet the doctor and walk around the office before making a final decision.
Most vision care plans provide benefits for basic eye care. If you have vision insurance, it’s important to know exactly what’s covered to avoid surprise fees and out-of-pocket costs.
At Humana, we offer affordable vision insurance plans to cover costs for routine eye exams, glasses, contacts and more. For more information, check out our Humana vision insurance plans.