An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic physician who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and the prevention of eye disease. An ophthalmologist treats eye diseases, prescribes medications, and performs all types of surgery to improve, or prevent the worsening of, eye and vision-related conditions. You will usually need a referral from a General Practitioner or Optometrist before you can visit an ophthalmologist.

An optometrist is a health care professional who specializes in function and disorders of the eye, detection of eye disease, and some types of eye disease management. An optometrist is trained to examine the eyes for visual defects, diagnose problems or impairments, prescribe corrective glasses and contact lenses, and, in some states, perform certain surgical procedures.

Orthoptists are university-trained, allied health care practitioners who specialize in disorders of eye movements and diagnostic procedures related to disorders of the eye and visual system. Orthoptists will often perform technical tests to aid the Ophthalmologist in the diagnosis and best treatment of your eye condition. They can provide patient education regarding eye treatment as discussed with the eye doctor. They work in various settings including with an Ophthalmologist, in eye clinics, at vision support agencies and within a hospital or health care setting.Source: retina.com.au/what-orthoptist

It is useful to prepare for your doctor visits and examinations by thinking through what you will need to take with you and what you want to know. During the examination, be sure to ask questions.

To understand your diagnosis and the options available to you it is important to play an active role in your health care. Here are some questions you can ask your Ophthalmologist or Optometrist (or other medical professional):

At the initial diagnosis of your condition:

  • What kinds of tests will I have?
  • What do you expect to find out from these tests?
  • When will I know the results?
  • Do I have to do anything special to prepare for any of the tests?
  • Do these tests have any side effects or risks?

When a diagnosis has been made:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • A description in layman’s terms would be?
  • What caused my condition?
  • Can my condition be treated?
  • How will this condition affect my vision now & in the future?
  • Should I watch for any particular symptoms and notify you if they occur?
  • Should I make any lifestyle changes?

When discussing treatments:

  • What is the treatment for my condition?
  • When will the treatment start, and how long will it last?
  • What are the benefits of this treatment, & how successful is it?
  • What are the risks and side effects associated with this treatment?
  • Are there foods, drugs, or activities I should avoid while I’m on this treatment?
  • If my treatment includes taking a medication, what should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Are there alternative treatments?

If you don’t understand your doctor’s responses, ask questions until you do understand. Take notes, or get a friend or family member to take notes for you.

Alternatively, you could:

  • Bring a recording device to assist in your recollection of the discussion.
  • Ask your doctor to write down his or her instructions to you.
  • Ask your doctor for printed material about your condition.

If you still have trouble understanding your doctor’s answers, ask where you can go for more information. Other members of your health care team, such as nurses and pharmacists, can be good sources of information. Talk to them, too.

Adapted from: Retina New Zealand – Your Blue Book