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Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist: What is the difference?

Posted by Eye Specialists of Louisiana on Tue, Mar 12, 2019 @ 12:43 PM

ophthalmologistWhen it comes to ophthalmology and optometry, the differences between the two professions can be unclear. We understand that it is hard enough learning how to spell ophthalmology, much less understanding exactly what an ophthalmologist does.  So, deciding on who you should consult for your eye care can be a bit overwhelming.  With that in mind, let’s explore the key differences between an ophthalmologist and optometrist and determine which may best for your own eye care needs.

Defining Optometrist

The American Board of Clinical Optometry defines optometrists as: “Optometrists, or Doctors of Optometry, are primary health care providers who specialize in the examination, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and the eye's associated structures, as well as the diagnoses and management of related systemic conditions that affect the eye." 

Defining Ophthalmologist

The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines the profession of Ophthalmology or Ophthalmologist as: "An Eye M.D. is an ophthalmologist, a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Eye M.D.s are specially trained to provide the full spectrum of eye care, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to complex and delicate eye surgery. Many Eye M.D.s are also involved in scientific research into the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision problems."

Between the two professions, there is some overlap in the types of care of provided. However, some very critical differences between the two should be noted and made clear. We have listed a couple of distinct differences below for your reference. 

Optometrist Treatments and Services

Optometrists are extensively trained in refraction and prescribing lenses.

An optometrist specializes in prescribing glasses and contact lenses.  An optometrist is trained to diagnose and treat vision conditions like farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism, as well as fit and prescribe contact lenses and prescription eyeglass lenses. A large part of their job was is to perform “refraction” — or vision correction exams. To prescribe eye glasses, an optometrist must complete a refraction to precisely measure a patient’s far-farsightedness, nearsightedness, and/or astigmatism.  A refraction should also include measurement of accommodation (focusing) and binocular (eye teaming) function.   

Optometrist Training and Education

To become an optometrist, one must complete four years of education from a school of optometry after receiving an undergraduate degree. While in optometry school, four years of concentrated class and clinic work in refraction, optics, ophthalmic optics and contact lenses are the main objectives. Additionally, every optometry school curriculum includes many hours of course work in binocular function, which is the study of how the two eyes work together.

Ophthalmologist Treatments and Services   

The study of ophthalmology is heavily concentrated on performing surgery on eyes to treat eye disease.  While the treatment by optometrist involves prescribing medications up to the point of surgery, ophthalmologists are trained to treat eye conditions and disease through both diagnosis and surgical intervention.

Ophthalmologist Training and Education

Ophthalmologists are trained in surgeries and pathologies. 

Ophthalmologists have more of an extensive schooling than do the optometrist. Ophthalmologist take four or more years of premedical undergraduate education. Once the four years of undergraduate schooling is complete, four years of medical school is then required. Then, one year of internship is required to get a medical license. Once they become licensed physicians, they will then undergo a residency of three or more years, with medical and surgical training in eye care.

When to See an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist

Whether you see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist for any eye condition, if you need surgery, seeing an ophthalmologist is a necessity. Eye surgery is extremely serious, and you’ll want to find the ophthalmologist who specializes in the specific type of treatment you need.  Surgeries commonly performed by ophthalmologists include cataract removal, LASIK, corneal transplants, and more.

If you have symptoms that may warrant a visit to an ophthalmologist, contact Eye Specialists of Louisiana.  We have a team of board-certified ophthalmologists available to address your concerns and provide the highest levels of treatment. 

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Tags: Eye Doctors

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