Photo of optician

What to Consider When Picking an Eye Doctor

Eye exams are a critical part of your overall health. The CDC states that people with vision problems are at a higher risk for falls, injury, and depression and are more likely to have lower back pain and strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, and poor hearing. With all of this in mind, it is important that you not just go for a checkup, but choose the right person to provide care for your eyes.

Who You Should Go To

The right eye care provider depends on the needs of your eyes. Eye care professionals fall into the following three categories:

  • Ophthalmologists: Eye doctors who have completed medical school but have also undergone training in medical and surgical eye care. Essentially, they are medical doctors who specialize in the field of eye care. They can prescribe eyeglasses, contacts, perform eye surgery, or and treat medical conditions of the eye.
  • Optometrists: Eye doctors who, after college, have completed 4 years at an optometry school. They are licensed to prescribe glasses, contacts, low-vision aids, vision therapy, and medications for certain eye conditions or diseases. However, they typically are not trained or licensed to perform eye surgery.
  • Opticians: Eye technicians who have received their training either on the job or from a technical school. They are only permitted to fit, adjust or repair glasses, and teach patients how to use and care for contact lenses. In some cases, a technician may be trained to fit contact lenses as well

Other factors to consider when picking an eye care provider:

  • Is the provider in your network?
  • Does the provider have the right certifications and credentials? (Note: if you choose someone within the National Vision Administration Network, then you can be assured that they are certified.)
  • What services do they offer? (exams only, glasses and contacts only, or are they full service)
  • Location and office hours?
  • What languages do they speak?
  • How many frames do they have available for zero dollars out of pocket?
  • References or reviews? You may want to ask friends, family, or coworkers about their eye care providers and if they would recommend them.

How Often You Should Go

It’s not just who you should go to, but how often you should go too. The American Optometric Association (AOA), recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years for risk-free school-age children and adults through the age of 60; that time period drops to annually for children and adults who wear glasses or contacts as well as all seniors aged 61 and above.

People at increased risk, however, are advised to have more frequent eye exams. Some of the special risk factors include:

  • Family history of eye disease
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Previous eye injuries or eye surgeries
  • Taking medications that may have visual or eye-related side effects
  • Have occupations that may pose hazards to the eyes or that are visually demanding

Ultimately, your choice in eye care provider should be decided by your health needs and your comfort. NVA members can use our NVA Vision Benefits Member App on Google Play or Apple Store to find an in-network vision care provider nearby, call the provider to set-up an appointment, and get driving directions.

Sources: 1. Heiting, Gary, OD; Palombi, Jennifer, OD “Eye exam cost and when to have an eye exam.” All About Vision (2019):
2. “Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician.” American Association for Ophthalmology and Strabismus (2019):
3. “CDC – Healthy Vision Month – Vision Health Initiative (VHI).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015):