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Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist


Optometrist vs. OphthalmologistOptometrists and ophthalmologists are eye doctors that provide a range of comprehensive eye care services such as prescribing contacts and glasses. Both are qualified to diagnose a range of eye diseases and disorders. Both can also perform testing or prescribe medications for eye conditions.

When examining the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist, the significant differences between the two are the specializations of each profession as well as the education backgrounds they possess.

Education and Specializations: Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor that specializes in vision and eye care. They complete four years of undergraduate study and four years of medical school. After this is achieved, they spend a minimum of four years in residency or hospital-based training. Ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye exams, diagnose eye diseases, and treat eye them. They are mainly trained to perform eye surgeries in both a hospital setting and in-office.

An optometrist is someone who has a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and specializes in eye exams for vision and health problems, such as diabetes. They also specialize in prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses to patients to correct refractive errors. Some optometrists may also provide vision therapy and low vision care rehabilitation for patients who can’t be entirely treated by surgical, medical, or conventional eyewear.  Additionally, optometrists are trained to treat a wide range of medical eye conditions such as dry eye symptoms or macular degeneration.

How to Determine Whether You Need to See an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist

If you have healthy vision and you don’t require specialized surgical treatment, choosing between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist is based on what you prefer. Both an ophthalmologist and optometrist are trained to:

  • Perform comprehensive, routine eye exams
  • Prescribe medications for the treatment of a range of eye disorders
  • Detect, diagnose, and manage eye diseases and conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy and other conditions
Depending on the eye disease you have, you may need an optometrist and ophthalmologist to co-manage your condition together. Your primary care eye doctor, who is usually an optometrist, will diagnose your condition and then develop a treatment plan for you with oral pills or drops. If it turns out that your medical condition cannot be managed with this treatment plan or that it cannot be treated medically, your eye doctor may refer you to a specialist, usually an ophthalmologist for a surgical evaluation.

After the specialist treats your condition, your primary optometrist or eye doctor will monitor and manage your condition going forward if you are pleased with the care you’ve received from your primary eye doctor.

Comprehensive, Expert Eye Care Services

At Dittman Eyecare, our staff of expert optometrists has the experience and the skill to provide you with comprehensive vision care and preventative eye exams to help keep your eyes healthy. Contact us today or use our online scheduling tool to request an eye exam today.

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