Who Are Chronic Dry Eye Specialists?

Being diagnosed with and living with a long-term disease like chronic dry eye can be tough. To make it more challenging, your symptoms may change over time. Having a care team in place to meet these challenges is important. On your path to diagnosis and treatment, you may see different healthcare professionals who will help to treat your chronic dry eye.

Ophthalmologists

An ophthalmologist is a medical (MD) or osteopathic (DO) doctor specializing in eye care and vision. These doctors have completed 3 or more years of college, 4 years of medical school, and at least 4 years of additional training in diagnosing and treating conditions of the eye. Ophthalmologists are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. Like other medical doctors, ophthalmologists might also research the causes and cures for various eye conditions.1,2

Optometrists

Optometrists (OD) are healthcare professionals who provide a wide range of primary vision care. Some of the care an optometrist provides includes:1

  • Vision testing and correction
  • Diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes
  • Detecting certain eye abnormalities
  • Prescribing drugs for certain eye conditions or diseases

A doctor of optometry has completed 3 or more years of college and 4 years of optometry school. Optometrists are licensed to practice optometry but are not trained in general medicine or surgical procedures of the eye.1

Additional doctors and specialists

Like many other long-term diseases, chronic dry eye usually does not present with dry eye alone. Some people have conditions or take medicines that are the cause of their dry eye symptoms. Others may have complications related to dry eye or structural issues with their eyes. In any case, additional specialists or doctors might be needed to diagnose, treat, and care for chronic dry eye. Some of these doctors may include:3-7

  • Rheumatologists – Doctors who treat autoimmune diseases, which may be the cause of dry eye disease
  • Dermatologists – Doctors who specialize in disorders of the skin. Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes redness or blushing of the face. Rarely, this condition may appear in the eye or eyelids, causing dry eye. A dermatologist may be needed to help treat this condition.
  • Oculoplastic surgeons – Eye surgeons who specialize in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the eyelids, eyebrows, forehead, cheeks, orbit (bone socket around the eye), and tear drainage system. These surgeons may be needed if chronic dry eye is caused by abnormally positioned eyelids or another structural problem of the eye or eyelids.
  • Endocrinologists – Doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of problems related to hormones
  • Contact lens specialists – Doctors who specialize in fitting custom contact lenses. This may be helpful for those with dry eyes who want to wear or continue wearing contact lenses.

Communicating with your healthcare team

Being diagnosed with and living with chronic dry eye may look different for you over time. Symptoms of the disease may change, and your needs may change as a result. It is always best to make sure you keep good communication with all your doctors about your condition. Together, you and your doctors make a great team to help you manage chronic dry eye disease.

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Written by: Katie Murphy │ Last reviewed: June 2021