Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist: Choosing Your Eye Care Provider

Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist: Choosing Your Eye Care Provider

Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist: Choosing Your Eye Care Provider

Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist: Choosing Your Eye Care Provider

January 30, 2023

You may come across two different types of eye doctors when looking for an eye care provider—optometrists and ophthalmologists. Both play significant roles in providing eye care, but they differ in some aspects.


The two eye care providers differ in their educational levels, requirements, scope of practice, and services. Ultimately, choosing your eye doctor depends on the care you need.


Who Is an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?


An optometrist is an eye doctor who provides primary eye care. They are licensed to practice optometry, but they are not medical doctors. Optometry allows them to give eye exams, write prescriptions for corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses, or treat specific eye problems.


An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor who offers both primary and advanced eye care. They are medical doctors with the expertise to detect and treat all eye illnesses.


Education and Training


Optometrists need to complete a three- or four-year bachelor's program. Afterward, they undergo a four-year program to become doctors of optometry (OD). Ophthalmologists must complete four years of college to earn a bachelor's degree, four years of medical school, and three to eight years more training. 


Scope of Practice


An optometrist examines, diagnoses, and treats various eye problems. They perform eye exams, assess vision, examine eye conditions, and write prescriptions. 


An ophthalmologist examines, diagnoses, and is responsible for treating nearly all visual problems and eye conditions, including performing surgery.


Ophthalmologists are the only eye doctors with medical training to detect and treat all eye and eyesight problems. Optometrists and ophthalmologists often work together.


Services Provided


Optometrists focus on regular eye care. They:


  • Screen vision and perform eye tests

  • Prescribe and fit contact lenses or eyeglasses

  • Provide vision therapy

  • Monitor eye problems related to health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes

  • Treat or manage eye conditions like myopia, color blindness, dry eye, cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal issues


Ophthalmologists provide comprehensive eye and vision care services. These include:


  • Comprehensive eye exams

  • Diagnosing and treating eye problems that arise from diseases like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and much more

  • Medical eye treatment for chemical burns, glaucoma, cataracts, and iritis

  • Surgical treatment for trauma, glaucoma, cataracts, strabismus, and more

  • Cosmetic surgery to smoothen out wrinkles or raise saggy eyelids


Choosing Your Eye Care Provider


One eye doctor does not automatically outperform the other. The appropriate choice will depend on your eye care needs. The best eye care provider should be your doctor's, family's, or friend's recommendation and be competent to address your needs. The eye doctor should also be someone you trust.


For primary eye care needs, you may visit an optometrist. The optometrist may refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary. An experienced ophthalmologist is a good choice if your eyes need eye surgery. The doctor can perform surgery for glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye conditions. More importantly, having annual eye checkups and taking steps to guard your eyesight is the best way to care for and protect your eye health.


For more on choosing your eye care provider, visit Maine Coast Eye Care at our office in Rockport, Maine. Call 207-887-0022 to book an appointment today.

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