• A photo of an optometrist performing eye exam

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist: What’s the Difference?

While often referred to as just the “eye doc­tor,” in real­i­ty there are two main types of eye doc­tors that most indi­vid­u­als will see: oph­thal­mol­o­gists and optometrists.  Know­ing now that both doc­tors spe­cial­ize in eye health, there are sev­er­al big dif­fer­ences between them. So let’s look at the dif­fer­ences between an optometrist vs. oph­thal­mol­o­gist.

Optometrist are known as OD’s (Doc­tors of Optom­e­try) who are trained to diag­nose and treat vision impair­ments and fit/prescribe glass­es and con­tact lens­es; how­ev­er, they are not med­ical doc­tors (MD’s). Optometrists can also diag­nose and treat basic eye con­di­tions and dis­eases due to the increased med­ical train­ing OD’s now receive. With that being said, OD’s can also pre­scribe cer­tain med­ica­tions. Typ­i­cal­ly, optometrists com­plete four years of under­grad­u­ate stud­ies fol­lowed by four years of post-grad­u­ate doc­tor­al train­ing and then pass the nation­al licens­ing exam. Some OD’s opt to take an addi­tion­al year of post-grad­u­ate res­i­den­cy to gain spe­cial­ized exper­tise. Regard­less, the main role of an optometrist is to per­form eye exams and cor­rect vision prob­lems.

The main dif­fer­ence between an oph­thal­mol­o­gist vs. optometrist is the abil­i­ty to per­form sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures. Oph­thal­mol­o­gists per­form surg­eries such as Lasik, cataract removal, reti­na reat­tach­ment, and oth­er pro­ce­dures relat­ed to eye trau­ma. The sec­ond big dif­fer­ence between an oph­thal­mol­o­gist vs. optometrist is spe­cial­ized train­ing to diag­nose and treat more com­plex eye dis­eases and con­di­tions. Final­ly, oph­thal­mol­o­gists can pre­scribe a much broad­er-range of med­ica­tions to their patients. To receive their doc­tor­al degree, oph­thal­mol­o­gists com­plete four years of under­grad­u­ate stud­ies, four years of med­ical school, and a one year post-grad­u­ate intern­ship. As licensed physi­cians,  oph­thal­mol­o­gists par­take in three or more years of res­i­den­cy in med­ical and sur­gi­cal train­ing. While all oph­thal­mol­o­gists are trained to per­form the same vision ser­vices as optometrists, many choose to focus on the sur­gi­cal aspect of their pro­fes­sion.

The next time you go to the “eye doc­tor,” you will know the dif­fer­ences between the doc­tor fit­ting you for con­tacts lens­es and the doc­tor per­form­ing Lasik surgery.

March 31st, 2016|Comments Off on Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist: What’s the Difference?

About the Author:

Born in Connecticut and raised in Upstate New York , Dr. Stetson graduated Cum Laude from Colgate University in New York, and then earned an MD degree with honors at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He distinguished himself again in residency at the Albany Medical Center, where he obtained the highest percentile in the Ophthalmology Knowledge Assessment Examinations. Dr. Stetson has performed more than 50,000 refractive surgeries and has been on staff at Diamond Vision since 2004, before becoming Medical Director in 2006.


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