There are two main types of eye doctors: ophthalmologists and optometrists. Confused about which is which and who does what? Here's a look at how they're different. Keep in mind that these professionals can work together and that a team approach can be the best option for eye care.
Ophthalmologist: Medical and Surgical Eye Care
They went to medical school. After that, they had a 1-year internship and a residency of 3 years. That's sometimes followed by a 1 to 2 years fellowship.
They offer complete eye care services:
- Vision services, including eye exams
- Medical eye care -- for conditions like glaucoma, iritis, and chemical burns
- Surgical eye care -- for trauma, crossed eyes, cataracts, glaucoma, and other problems
- Diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions related to other diseases, like diabetes or arthritis
- Plastic surgery -- to raise droopy eyelids or smooth out wrinkles
Optometrist (OD): Vision Care and Eye Care Services
Optometrists take care of primary health care for the eye. After college, they spent 4 years in a professional program and got a doctor of optometry degree. Some optometrists get additional clinical training or complete a specialty fellowship after optometry school. They focus on regular vision care and they:
- Perform eye exams and vision tests.
- Prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Monitor medically related eye conditions related to diseases like diabetes
- Manage and treat conditions like Dry Eye and glaucoma
- Provide low-vision aids and vision therapy
Optometrists and ophthalmologists often work together to take care of you.
Optician: Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses
Opticians aren’t eye doctors and can’t give eye exams. They get a 1- or 2-year degree, certificate, or diploma. They fill the prescription your eye doctor gives you. They also:
How to Choose an Eye Doctor
One type isn’t automatically better than the other. The right choice depends on your needs. The best eye doctor for you should be:
- Recommended by your doctor, friends, or family
- Someone you like and trust
A good rule of thumb would be:
- For primary eye care, you may wish to start with an Optometrist. From there, they may refer you to an Ophthalmologist if needed
- If you think you need eye surgery for cataracts, glaucoma or another eye disease, an ophthalmologist with the appropriate specialty would be a good place to start