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Choosing an Optometrist vs. an Ophthalmologist for Contact Lenses

If you need new contact lenses or are thinking of trying them out for the first time, who do you turn to? An optometrist or an ophthalmologist? To know with whom to set up an appointment, it’s important to understand the differences in eye care professionals.

The Difference Between Ophthalmologists and Optometrists

What is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) who examines eyes and performs vision-related surgical procedures. Ophthalmologists generally complete 4 years of college, 4-5 years of medical school, one year of internship, and at least three years of residency in ophthalmology. Their advanced medical training provides them with the expertise to diagnose eye diseases,  offer treatments, conduct scientific research on vision disorders, and prescribe medication. 

Though ophthalmologists can fit patients with eyeglasses and contact lenses, they often refer their patients to an optometrist on their team to correct any refractive errors, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism, or presbyopia (farsightedness related to aging). Optometrists are usually the ones to screen patients for LASIK and work alongside LASIK surgeons to coordinate the surgery.

What is an Optometrist?

optometrist caucasian od bigAn optometrist is a healthcare professional who has earned the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. Optometrists have to complete a four-year college degree program in the sciences coupled with four years of post-graduate professional training in optometry school. 

Optometrists examine eyes for vision and health problems, diagnose and treat certain eye diseases and conditions, and prescribe and fit patients with glasses or contacts for common refractive errors. Certain optometrists provide alternative services, such as vision therapy, low vision care, dry eye treatment and myopia control. Optometrists can also provide pre- and post-surgery care, such as LASIK, PRK, corneal transplant, among others. 

Optometrists in the United States are licensed to prescribe medications for certain eye conditions and diseases, though the scope of medical care that they can provide varies from state to state. 

Why Choose an Optometrist?

If your eyes are healthy and don't require specialized surgical treatment, visiting an optometrist is the obvious choice. Moreover, beyond performing routine eye exams, optometrists can detect, diagnose and manage eye diseases that require medical and non-medical treatment.

These treatments include, but are not limited to:

Dry Eye Treatment, Vision Therapy, Low Vision Management, Myopia Control, Specialty Contact Lens Fitting, Management and/or treatment of various corneal conditions and irregularities.

Think of your optometrist as a primary care physician for your eyes. When in need of a routine eye check-up, or if you’re dealing with an eye condition or notice your vision changing, it’s time to visit the optometrist.

If you're interested in fitting specialty or traditional contact lenses to aid with specific eye conditions or misshapen corneas,  Dr. Leonard at the The Sclerals Center At Coastal Family Eyecare can help. 

Fitting Contact Lenses

Girl Putting in Contact 1280×853Whether you’re a first-time lens wearer or you’ve recently had a prescription change, it’s essential to ensure a proper fit. When lenses are not properly fitted, it can prove to be uncomfortable and can lead to vision problems, infections, or scarring. That’s where we come in.

To ensure a proper contact lens fitting, Dr. Leonard will perform a comprehensive eye exam to check your level of refractive error and will also check for any conditions that could interfere with wearing contact lenses. The shape of your eye and personal lifestyle are also important factors in determining the right lens for you. If you spend a significant amount of time outdoors or lead an active lifestyle, that may require a different lens type. Following a proper assessment, the doctor will ensure the best fit for your eyes and overall vision health. 

Moreover, your optometrist will show you how to insert and remove lenses, and generally, how to properly care for them. Additional follow-up appointments may be needed in order to monitor and assess the fitting and overall comfort level. 

Specialized in fitting traditional and specialty contact lenses, Dr. Leonard find the proper fit for all patients, from the simple near-sighted first-time wearer to the complex astigmatic, bifocal or diseased cornea patient. Visit us at the The Sclerals Center At Coastal Family Eyecare for a contact lens fitting.

We help patients from the Pensacola,  Orange Beach,  Tallahassee, and  Mobile, in the FL area enjoy great vision and comfort with contact lenses.



Call Our Two Locations!

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Dear Patients,

As of Tuesday evening, March 17th, the CDC has recommended that all routine eye care be deferred until further notice, in order to slow the transmission of COVID-19 through our community.

Please be assured that we are still available to triage all urgent and emergent calls during this challenging time.

We are officially closing our offices effective at 3:00pm today, March 20 th and tentatively plan to reopen on April 1 st . We are rescheduling all routine visits and are available by phone to triage ocular emergencies.

Our phone lines will be open:

Monday the 23 rd and 30 th : 10:00am to 5:00pm

Tuesday-Friday (24 th -27 th and the 31 st ): 9:00am to 3:00pm

What does this mean?

1) If you are scheduled for an annual eye examination we will tentatively reschedule you starting April 1 st

2) If you are running out of a medication please contact us and we can transmit a refill electronically to your pharmacy.

3) If you have an issue which cannot wait for an office visit, contact us and we will schedule a Telephone appointment with one of our doctors. Medicare has temporarily relaxed its telehealth rules to allow this type of communication during the pandemic crisis. Other insurers may follow suit and allow for reimbursement of virtual care costs. The consultation must be initiated at your request.

4) If you have an ocular emergency we are, as always, available to help you at any time. Call 1-850-455-0120 andwait for instructions at the end of the message.

Dr. Leonard or Dr. Charbonneau will discuss your condition by phone and make the best treatment decision for you on a one on one basis.

5) Please remember that 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild and resolve within a week. However, if you feel your symptoms are worsening, call ahead before visiting your doctor’s office or emergency department and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.

The CDC has many wonderful resources. Arming yourself and your family with clear information will help you avoid undue stress.

https://bit.ly/2WxWYIe and https://bit.ly/33FBlXZ

Together we will weather this storm.

With sincerest wishes for your continued good health we remain at your service,

Dr. Clare L Leonard

Dr. Mary Charbonneau