Should Glaucoma Be Treated by an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?

When it comes to treating glaucoma, the decision of whether to visit an optometrist or an ophthalmologist can be a difficult one. Optometrists are trained and licensed to diagnose and treat eye diseases, as well as prescribe corrective lenses and refractive surgery. Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, have undergone at least three years of postgraduate training in medical centers specializing in the care, research, and teaching of ophthalmology. In some cases, a patient may choose to alternate between visiting an optometrist and an ophthalmologist.

This arrangement allows the patient to remain part of the optometrist's office while still having access to the necessary experience. The intervals between visits and the frequency with which each eye doctor evaluates the patient will vary depending on the level of care required and the preferences of each professional. Optometrists are now licensed in most states to prescribe medications for glaucoma. However, treating glaucoma is largely a matter of judgment and experience.

An early diagnosis of glaucoma can protect the eyes from future complications, so if you have any symptoms or need a complete eye exam, it is important to book an appointment with your optometrist. Most optometrists and glaucoma specialists can diagnose and treat glaucoma. Some optometrists are employed by eye doctors, while others work side by side with them in health institutions. Some optometrists even hire eye doctors to come to their office and provide care.

Additionally, some glaucoma specialists work full time at universities and teach about glaucoma to interns, residents, medical students, and other eye doctors. Optometrists who feel uncomfortable treating patients with glaucoma on their own may choose to refer them to an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are exposed to glaucoma and other eye problems on a daily basis since they are often tertiary care centers to which other doctors refer their difficult cases. Efficiency in eye care matters as resources dwindle and the number of patients with glaucoma increases. An optometric glaucoma specialist is an optometrist who has received additional training specific to the treatment of patients with glaucoma.

During their four-year study, they usually examine people with eye diseases under the supervision of other optometrists. In Oklahoma and Kentucky, optometrists can use a laser for anterior segment procedures, including SLT. If no laser procedures are performed, they can refer patients to other optometrists. Many eye doctors have an additional one to three years of specialized training in an area of eye diseases such as glaucoma care. If the optometrist knows the thickness of the cornea, he can better understand the pressure inside the eyes. Many optometrists struggle to make the proper referral given the difficult nature of diagnosing glaucoma.

Some of these patients turn out not to have glaucoma but do not do well on visual field tests or have large but healthy optic nerves.

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