What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist (ophthalmologist(sp))?
The titles Optometrist and Ophthalmologist can be very confusing to most people, but hopefully we can clarify the similarities and differences between the two kinds of eye doctors.
Let’s start with an accurate definition of each:
The American Optometric Association definition of optometrists reads: “Doctors of Optometry (O.D.s/optometrists) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.”
The American Academy of Ophthalmology definition reads: “An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. An ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and optical care.”
As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in the care of each profession. One main difference between an ophthalmologist and optometrist is what is emphasized in the training. An ophthalmology residency is a surgical residency, which means that the main emphasis in training is on performing surgeries on eyes to treat eye disease. An optometrist is extensively trained in refraction and prescribing lenses. An optometrist is trained in diagnosis and treatment of many eye conditions up to the point of surgery.
It is very important to have routine eye examinations even if your eyes seem healthy. By having routine wellness eye examinations, not only will your eye doctor help you see the best you can, but may also detect asymptomatic, but treatable, eye diseases, such as glaucoma.