Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist: What is the difference?

There are two types of eye doctors, optometrist and ophthalmologist, and the differences between the two can become very tricky for patients:

  1. Optometrist
    1. Optometrist are trained to diagnose and treat patients for both vision and health problems. Optometrists are licensed and can prescribe medications, as well as diagnose and treat a broad range of medical conditions that pertain to the eye.
    2. Most optometrists attend four years of undergrad and then four years of post-grad doctoral training to receive their doctoral (O.D.) degree. All optometrist must pass a set of nationally administered exams and are also required to fulfill continue education requirements based on state law.
    3. Optometrists treat vision conditions such as myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia, and astigmatism by prescribing contact lenses or eyeglasses. The scope of medical care that an optometrist can provide is determined by state law. Most optometrist can diagnose and treat dry eyes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and retinal diseases caused by diabetes and high blood pressure. Optometrists typically are not licensed to perform eye surgery.
  2. Ophthalmologist
    1. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the eye. Ophthalmologists are trained to perform surgery.
    2. Ophthalmologists attend four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, and a year of internship to receive their doctoral (M.D.) degree. They will then complete a residency of three years or more depending on the specialty they wish to complete.
    3. Ophthalmologist are trained in vision exams similar to optometrist, they also perform surgeries. Ophthalmologists perform cataract removals, Lasik vision correction, retinal detachment repair, eyelid surgeries, and many other surgeries depending on the specialty they completed.
  3. Optometrist and Ophthalmologist working together
    1. Many times optometrist will refer patients to ophthalmologist because the ophthalmologist has had additional specialized training in managing and treating more complex eye conditions. Co-managing patients between optometrist and ophthalmologist is very common in the vision care industry and here at Lumen to make sure patients are getting the best care possible for their eyes and health.
  4. Optician
    1. Opticians are very important in the eye care team as well, but are not eye doctors. Opticians specialize in fitting and selling eyeglasses and other eyewear that help fill a prescription that an optometrist or ophthalmologist prescribes.
glasses overlooking night city
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