Do I need to see an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist?

When patients know that they need to see an eye doctor, they often use

the phrase optometrist and ophthalmologist interchangeably.

 

What is an Optometrist and What Services Do They Provide?

optometristAn optometrist is a medical professional who has graduated with a Doctorate of Optometry degree from an accredited optometry school, after earning a Bachelor’s degree from a college or university.  Optometrists may often specialize in the measurement of glasses prescriptions and the fitting of contact lenses, but they are also trained in the diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases.  Optometrists treat many ocular conditions within their own offices, including ocular surface infections and inflammations, dry eye syndrome, and glaucoma, just to name a few conditions.  Optometrists are also trained to detect many conditions which require more specialized treatment and surgeries, including diseases of the retina and interior of the eye.  It is these patients that are most commonly referred by optometrists to ophthalmologists.  Optometrists are also trained to follow many of these surgical cases after surgery.  Most commonly these include cataract or refractive (i.e. Lasik) surgery patients.

 

What is an Ophthalmologist and What Services Do They Provide?

ophthalmologistAn Ophthalmologist is a medical professional who has earned a Doctorate degree in general medicine from an accredited medical school, after receiving a Bachelor’s degree from a college or university.  After medical school, these professionals continue on to complete specialized residency training in ophthalmology.  Here, their training typically specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases.  Surgery is included in the treatment options performed by ophthalmologists, and herein is the primary difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists.  Areas of the eye in which ophthalmologists typically specialize include glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal diseases.  Ophthalmologists can also prescribe glasses and contacts lenses, although these areas are not the primary emphasis of their practices.

 

Optometrists and Ophthalmologists frequently work together in the co-management of their patients and indeed, these two medical professions often overlap.

 

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