Holistic Ophthalmology: Integrative Eye and Vision Healthcare

8 sources cited
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What is Holistic Eye Care?

Holistic care refers to medical prevention and treatment that isn’t necessarily traditional. Holistic doctors, sometimes called naturopathic doctors, treat the body, as well as the mind and spirit.

Holistic eye doctors take a more well-rounded approach to eye health. They think outside the clinical box.

Holistic eye care involves treating a variety of eye conditions that range in severity. Whatever the case, holistic doctors strive to build rapport and share decision-making with those they treat.4

Deciding whether or not holistic eye care is right for you is a personal choice. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision about seeking holistic eye care:

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Holistic vs. Traditional Ophthalmology

Traditional ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in eye care. They are either doctors of medicine (MDs) or doctors of osteopathy (DOs).

Both types of ophthalmologists:7

  • Perform eye exams
  • Diagnose eye conditions
  • Treat eye problems
  • Prescribe glasses and contacts to correct vision
  • Prescribe medicine for eye conditions
  • Perform surgical eye procedures
  • Participate in clinical research surrounding eye conditions and care

Ophthalmologists are different from optometrists, who provide primary vision care. They are also different from opticians. Opticians are technicians who design and fit eyeglass lenses, frames, and contact lenses to correct eyesight.2

Some ophthalmologists choose to concentrate in particular areas of expertise. For example, some specialize in pediatric ophthalmology.

Other ophthalmologists specialize in specific eye conditions, like glaucoma.8

Holistic ophthalmology is a little different. Holistic ophthalmologists look at four key factors when they diagnose and treat eye conditions:1

  1. Physical
  2. Social
  3. Environmental 
  4. Psychological

Holistic ophthalmologists make adjustments in all of these areas to prevent and treat eye conditions. 

As part of treatment, a holistic ophthalmologist may ask a person about the following:1

  • Physical symptoms they’re experiencing
  • Coping mechanisms for managing stress
  • Lifestyle
  • Dietary preferences
  • Social relationships
  • Environment
  • Belief systems
  • Family member history
  • Other physical and mental health conditions

They may use various eye exercises and vision therapy techniques to relax eye muscles and strengthen vision.1

Some holistic ophthalmologists incorporate everything from proper nutrition to traditional Chinese medicine into their practices.

What Qualifications Do Holistic Ophthalmologists Have?

All ophthalmologists complete rigorous schooling and training before they treat people. 

Ophthalmologists must first earn a bachelor’s degree and then attend a 4-year medical school program. After that, they complete an internship and a residency program.5

Landing a residency is difficult because it’s competitive. Ophthalmology training must last at least 36 months. In some cases, it may last as long as 8 years.6

Even after they complete their residency, ophthalmologists must still pass the United States Medical License Examination (UMSLE) in their state. Once they pass the exam, they receive their medical license, which allows them to practice ophthalmology.5

Some ophthalmologists choose to get certified as well. While an ophthalmology certification from the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) is not required to legally practice in the United States, it is recommended.5

The process to become a board-certified ophthalmologist takes several years. Holistic ophthalmologists may undergo additional training to better understand other functions of the mind and body.5

What Conditions Do Holistic Ophthalmologists Treat?

Ophthalmologists, including holistic ones, treat a variety of eye conditions, including:

  • Corrective vision problems
  • Eyestrain
  • Allergic reactions
  • Eye diseases
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Malnutrition
  • Certain autoimmune conditions
  • Anxiety

Do Holistic Ophthalmologists Accept Insurance? 

Not all holistic ophthalmologists accept insurance. Similarly, not all insurance companies cover holistic ophthalmology.3

Many holistic doctors require payment at the time of service. They may also offer a superbill or service summary to send to your insurance provider. A superbill or summary will include all of the codes necessary for potential reimbursement.3

Is Holistic Eye Care Right for You?

Don’t wait until you have noticeable eye disease symptoms before visiting the eye doctor.

Whether you have poor vision or healthy eyes, an annual eye exam is critical for maintaining good eye health. Regular visits to your eye doctor allow them to treat health problems before it’s too late, thanks to early detection

If you already see an eye doctor you trust, that doesn’t mean you must continue treatment with them forever.

Traditional treatment options are widely available, but a more holistic approach to eye care might be of interest to you.
Finding a doctor whom you are comfortable with is an important part of treatment. A holistic ophthalmologist should be someone who understands your unique pain points, situation, and health goals.

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8 Cited Research Articles
  1. Chen, Weiwei, et al. “Introduction to Holistic Integrative Ophthalmology.” AME Medical Journal, AME Publishing Company, 24 May 2018.
  2. Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician.” Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician - American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
  3. Do Naturopathic Doctors Take Insurance.” American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. 
  4. Holistic Care for Chronic Eye Conditions.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 31 Aug. 2021.
  5. Ophthalmologist: Job Description: Education: Requirements.Optician Edu | Just Another WordPress Site, 14 Dec. 2017.
  6. Ophthalmology.” American College of Surgeons.
  7. Ophthalmology.” NHS Choices, NHS.
  8. What Is an Ophthalmologist?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 11 Jan. 2022.
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