When you look for an eye doctor, you’ll likely hear two different terms: optometrist and ophthalmologist.
Many people wrongly assume that these two terms are interchangeable. If you need eye care, it’s important to understand the difference.
Let’s examine the difference between the two jobs and determine which one you should set an appointment with.
The Difference Between Optometrists and Ophthalmologists
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists examine and treat the eye, but their careers differ in several important ways.
Simply put, an ophthalmologist is a physician who offers medical and surgical care for the eyes. An optometrist is a health service provider who tests vision and treats vision problems.
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can work in eye clinics. Many ophthalmologists work in hospitals as well.
After attending a university, an optometrist goes on to study at an optometry college. There, he or she learns about the structure of the eye and common eye problems. The optometrist receives a state license that qualifies him or her to examine eyes and diagnose eye conditions. He or she has the title of OD (doctor of optometry).
On the other hand, an ophthalmologist studies at a four-year medical school. After medical school, he or she trains in the ophthalmology field for at least three years. Some ophthalmologists complete additional training to specialize in a specific subspecialty, such as glaucoma or plastic surgery. An ophthalmologist is licensed to practice eye surgery and medicine. An ophthalmologist has the distinction of MD (doctor of medicine) or DO (doctor of osteopathy).
An optometrist determines your level of vision and looks for any eye problems. He or she can conduct eye exams and prescribe glasses and contacts. He or she can also diagnose eye disease and prescribe medicine and other treatment.
An ophthalmologist can perform all of these duties as well. Unlike an optometrist, an ophthalmologist can also perform many types of eye surgeries to correct vision and treat eye disease.
For example, the ophthalmologists at Country Hill Eye Center perform eye exams and sell glasses and contact lenses. But they also offer:
- Refractive surgery (PRK and LASIK)
- Intraocular surgery for cataracts or glaucoma
- Argon laser surgery for glaucoma, retinal conditions, and diabetic eye disease
- Implantable collamer lenses for myopia
- iStent for glaucoma Eyelid surgery
- Orbital surgery
- Tear drainage surgery
- Corneal transplants
- Strabismus surgery to correct double vision
An ophthalmologist might also publish scientific research on vision disorders and eye diseases. He or she might conduct clinical trials on new therapies and treatments.
An optometrist may refer patients to an ophthalmologist to diagnose and treat more complicated eye conditions.
What Is an Optician?
Now that you know about the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist, you may wonder about the term optician.
An optician is a technician who works under an optometrist or ophthalmologist. He or she helps patients choose glasses and contact lenses. An optician also molds lenses and frames to fit the patients’ prescription and measurements. Plus, he or she can repair broken lenses and frames. If you get a new prescription from your optometrist or ophthalmologist, you’ll meet with an optician at their office.
Which Eye Professional Should I See?
If you simply need an eye exam or new glasses or contacts, you can see either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. If you suspect you have a rare eye condition or need surgical treatment, you should set an appointment with an ophthalmologist. If you already have an optometrist, your optometrist might refer you to an ophthalmologist.
If you live near Ogden, Utah and need to see an eye professional, call Country Hills Eye Center and learn more about our eye treatment options.