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Tips On Choosing an "Eye" Doctor: A Retina Specialist?

You suspect you might have macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.  How do you choose a doctor?

A little while back, I wrote about the differences between eye doctors.  Now that you know the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist, how do you choose which is right for you?  When do you need to see a retinal specialist?

Remember that optometrists and ophthalmologists both completed additional degree training after college.  Both also treat many eye diseases and dispense glasses.   In addition, a retina specialist (yours truly!) is an ophthalmologist that completed yet more training to sub-specialize.  I sub-specialize, as a retina specialist, in treating diseases of the retina such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.

You already have an “eye” doctor.

Terrific.  Stay with that eye doctor, be it optometrist or ophthalmologist.  If you have no complaints and your exam is normal, then you are in great shape.  Remember, you have already established a relationship with this guy/gal and you want to use it to your favor.  Your eye doctor should have your best interest at heart, that is, if there is a question about some of your symptoms or a question about your exam, you should be “referred.”

If you were just diagnosed with diabetes and already have an eye doctor, you should feel comfortable staying with your present doc.  If you are not comfortable, ask your doctor to suggest a retina specialist.  Keep in mind; however, most retina specialists do NOT prescribe glasses or take care of other eye problems.

Is My Eye Doctor Qualified?

Yes and no.  Both diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration make the retina “look” different.  So, while the typical optometrist and ophthalmologist may not be able to treat either disease, they should be able to recognize these diseases and refer you to a retina specialist if there is any question.  If the retina doesn’t look normal, most eye doctors will “refer” you.

You Have Symptoms and Are Worried

You have symptoms of blurry vision, have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, have distortion or some other symptom.  Make sure you get examined………… any eye doctor!  If a referral is necessary, see a retina specialist.

Everything you experience is not necessarily diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration.

When Do I Need to See a Retina Specialist?

Depending upon your level of comfort, if you have no signs of either disease, you might stay with your present eye doctor.  If you are not confident with this person, then ask for a “referral.”

If your doctor diagnosis you with either macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, I would suggest referral to a specialist.  You will need to see one at some point any way.  I always advocate the earlier the better.

If you or your doctor feel that you may benefit from treatment, then seek the help of a retina specialist.

Do I Need a “Referral?”

It depends upon your insurance.  Most insurance does not require an eye doctor to refer to another.  You may need a referral from your PCP (primary care provider).  If your insurance does not require a referral, call a retina specialist and make an appointment.  HINT:  Tell the receptionist that you have diabetes or are suspected of having macular degeneration – this should get you in easier.

How Do I Find a Doctor?

Ask your present eye doctor and then check to make sure that the doctor suggested is in your network.  Remember the difference between medical insurance and vision insurance.

If you do not have a doctor, check with your medical insurance for a list of retina specialists.

Group Practice

There are two types of group practices with regard to retina specialists; a single-specialty group of retina doctors, and, a multi-specialty group of sub-specialist eye doctors, including retina.

I would recommend a multi-specialty eye practice that offers a retina specialist.  It is the “one stop shopping” approach, but more importantly, there won’t be hesitation to referring you to the appropriate specialist as you won’t be leaving the practice.

In the end, the best way to preserve your excellent vision and function is to get examined…………by any eye doctor.


Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

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Currently, I see patients with retinal diseases; macular degeneration, retinal detachment, macular holes, macular pucker within several different's a different arrangement, but it allows more continuous care with many eye specialists. In addition, I am very accessible via the web. To schedule your own appointment, call any of the numbers below.

Virginia Lasik | Office of Anh Nguyen, M.D.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Layla

A: 431 Park Avenue, Suite 103 • Falls Church, Virginia 22046
Ph: 703.534. 4393
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Dressler Ophthalmology Associates, PLC
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Contact: Ashley (Surgery/Web)
Chrissy Megargee (Web)

A: 3930 Pender Drive, Suite 10 • Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Ph: 703.273.2398
F: 703.273.0239
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