There are so many types of physicians and specialists that it can be hard to know exactly who will be the most helpful for you. If you’re just exploring physicians for your eyes, for example, you may get confused by the differences between ophthalmologists and optometrists. Although they both deal with the eyes, they have vastly different educational experiences and a different skill set. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between ophthalmologists and optometrists.
An optometrist is a doctor of optometry who examines eyes for both vision and health problems. Optometrists have NOT attended medical school and they do not possess a medical degree. They prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision issues. Some optometrists may also provide low vision care and vision therapy. Vision therapy is very controversial and of uncertain benefit in many patients.
Optometrists are licensed to prescribe medications to treat certain eye problems and diseases. Depending on the state you’re in, they may be allowed to do more than in other states. Optometrists are not trained to perform eye surgery although they are trying to achieve that privilege via legislation in many states. They may help support your pre- and post-operative care if you have eye surgery as part of the health care team headed by an ophthalmologist.
Similar to optometrists, ophthalmologists also examine eyes, and are able to prescribe glasses and contact lenses. There are vast differences in the education and experience of ophthalmologists when compared to optometrist. Ophthalmologists typically attend four years of college to achieve their undergraduate degree followed by four years of medical school. At the conclusion of the four years of medical school they receive the Doctor of Medicine degree or M.D. They then perform a one year post graduate year in medicine or surgery followed by an additional three years of supervised ophthalmology residency where they learn to perform surgical and medical procedures and diagnosis under the close supervision of the medical school faculty. They may then perform another one to three years of advanced fellowship training in areas such as retina, glaucoma, cornea or ophthalmic plastics or pediatric ophthalmology. Ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye exams, diagnose and treat disease, prescribe medications and perform eye surgery. As you can see the training of ophthalmologists is far more intense and extensive than that of optometry.
Wait, there’s another type of eye specialist? Actually, opticians are not eye doctors. They take the prescriptions from your optometrist or ophthalmologist to correctly fit and provide you with your glasses.
Who should I see?
Generally, it’s up to you who to see for your vision needs. If you are looking at specialized medical treatment, or surgery, then you will want to find a physician who is an ophthalmologist who is trained and qualified to give you what you need. You may look for an ophthalmologist or an eye surgeon who is specially trained in the eye issue you are experiencing
If your concerns revolve around getting your glasses or contact lens prescription updated, then it’s a matter of preference. In our practice ophthalmologists and optometrists work together as a team to optimize your care. Finding a physician who you trust is important.
If you’re interested in learning more about ophthalmology, give us a call. Call us at (818) 907-1038 to schedule a consultation at our Encino location or (818) 346-8118 for our West Hills location.