Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in eye
care. Ophthalmology is a surgical subspecialty. Ophthalmologists are licensed
by state medical boards to practice medicine and are usually board-certified in
ophthalmology. Ophthalmologists are certified to:
Diagnose and treat all forms of eye
Prescribe and administer diagnostic and therapeutic
Are the eyes “windows to the soul,” as the ancient proverb has it? Maybe, but they are certainly portals through which one can glimpse signs of certain health problems -- not only eye disorders like cataracts and glaucoma, but also systemic illnesses like diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Sometimes the signs of these diseases are visible in, on, or around the eyes long before symptoms appear.
“The eyes truly are unique real estate,” says Andrew Iwach, MD, associate clinical professor...
Diagnose refractive errors and prescribe
Detect signs of disease and refer you to an
Administer diagnostic drugs.
and treat eye diseases and prescribe therapeutic drugs (in most states).
Perform some eye surgery (in some states).
Opticians are skilled technicians. They do not test vision, prescribe
corrective lenses, or diagnose or treat eye diseases. Some states require
completion of a 2-year training program or a 3-year apprenticeship for a
license. Others have no formal requirements. Opticians can:
Adjust eyeglass frames for comfort and proper lens
Clean and polish contact lenses.
Making the choice
Both ophthalmologists and optometrists can diagnose refractive
errors, such as nearsightedness, and prescribe corrective lenses, such as
glasses or contact lenses.
Ophthalmologists can diagnose all disorders that affect the eye.
They can carry out any medical or surgical treatment.
In a few states, even where they are allowed to administer
diagnostic drugs, optometrists are not allowed to diagnose or treat eye
disease. They may observe signs of disease and refer you to an ophthalmologist.
On average, optometrists charge less for routine eye exams than
ophthalmologists. You may also be able to get an appointment with an
optometrist sooner than with an ophthalmologist. Optometrists are more likely
than ophthalmologists to offer evening and weekend appointments.