Author: Dr Val Phua MBBS, MMed (Ophth), FRCOphth, FAMS
Photo by: Aron Visuals
“I can’t see so well”
“My eyes are red”
“My eyes are painful”
“I can’t read as well as i used to”
“My eyes feel tired easily”
“I see floaters”.
These are some of the more common eye symptoms patients may complain of and if you identify with any of them, it is probably time to see an Ophthalmologist. Choosing an eye care provider is an important decision because you are trusting your eye doctor to safeguard and even restore your vision for your lifestyle needs.
What is the difference?
The first step is overcoming the confusion of terms like ophthalmologist, optometrist, and optician.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who is registered with the Ministry of Health Specialist Accreditation Board (SAB) and specialises in eyecare, ie providing comprehensive examinations and investigations to diagnose and treat any eye diseases. This treatment includes medicated eye drops, injections into the eye, laser treatments, and surgery.
An optometrist is an eyecare practitioner who is able to provide a range of basic eyecare services and examinations. They provide timely advice on eyecare and will refer you on to an ophthalmologist should you require further management and treatment.
An optician is one who is skilled in preparing and dispensing optical aids like glasses according to the prescription given by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
An ophthalmologist is like an experienced photographer. He is not only able to frame the picture well and optimise lighting to capture that perfect shot but also possess in-depth knowledge of his equipment and camera, knowing exactly when and how each component of the camera can and should be tweaked to enhance the quality of the photograph taken. In this field of restoring sight, a detailed understanding of how the eye works, what can go wrong, and how and when to utilise specialised equipment to aid management forms the backbone of all eyecare work. Only with the right diagnosis can the appropriate treatment be recommended to optimise and restore sight.
Who should I see?
Consider the type of eye care that you need when making this decision. For making glasses and getting prescription for contact lenses, an optician and optometrist would be able to advise you on these matters. They will also lend their experience in choosing the right spectacles frame for you. If you have more severe eye issues like pain, redness and blurring of vision, you may benefit from a comprehensive check up with an ophthalmologist who is then able to advise on any treatment needed.
How to choose an ophthalmologist?
With advancements in technology, we can access vast amounts of information easily with just a touch of a button. Just “Google it” is a simplistic answer if you don’t know what you are looking for.
First consider how urgent you need to see the doctor. Most eye symptoms can be frightening but some symptoms like a sudden onset of blurred vision or severe eye pain, should be given more consideration for an urgent consultation. While many specialist clinics prefer to see patients with appointments, some do take walk-in cases. Inquire about the availability of your ophthalmologist to see you on an urgent basis if needed.
You might want to consider where the eye clinic is located. While many of the specialist clinics are in central locations, there are ophthalmologists who run their clinic elsewhere to enable access to those who prefer not to travel far from their place of residence. An example is Eagle Eye Centre at King Albert Park mall for those who live nearer the west side of Singapore.
Check out also your doctor’s profile, any reviews and recommendations from others. Such data is easily available online. Choose an eye doctor who is trustworthy and committed to your eye health. Some eye doctors practice as solo practitioners while others are part of a group. Being part of a group practice has advantages like having the right subspecialist take care of your eye problem if further care needs to be coordinated. Eagle Eye Centre has a team of specialist which cover every eye subspecialty making it a one stop service for eye care.
Health-care in Singapore can be costly and these outpatient check ups may be covered by your personal or company insurance. Check with your insurance policy or company HR to see if your ophthalmologist is on the panel of doctors which is covered by the policy to save some out of pocket costs. Multiple visits to your ophthalmologist may be needed depending on your eye condition so it does make fiscal sense to optimise where it is possible.
After your appointment with the ophthalmologist, evaluate your experience: How was the service provided? Were the staff supportive and professional? Was the waiting time acceptable? Was the examination complete? Were you rushed out of the consultation? Did your ophthalmologist listen to you and answer your questions?
If your ophthalmologist did not meet your expectations, it is alright to try someone else. Your eyes are important and you should feel comfortable with the ophthalmologist taking care of you.