Written by Dr. James Lehmann on 11/23/18

Are you among the 14 million Americans dealing with some form of visual impairment?

If so, then we know that you’re interested in finding the right solution that will help you to see the world around you more clearly — and eliminate those headaches and forehead lines that come from squinting!

But can you correct your vision by upgrading your glasses or contacts prescription, or is having cataract surgery the better choice for you?

And what kind of eye specialist should you see — an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?

This post is here to help you understand some of the most important differences between an ophthalmologist vs optometrist.

Read on to learn more about the type of care that you should seek depending on the kinds of eye conditions that you’re dealing with.

Understanding Optometry

In order to better understand what separates optometry vs ophthalmology, let’s take a look at the former first.

An optometrist attends university for four years, has four years of medical school, and then has about a year of residency training afterward. They’ll graduate as a Doctor of Optometry, which means that they can prescribe glasses or contact lenses for vision issues.

They can conduct eye exams, prescribe medications that can help you to handle more basic eye conditions like dry eyes or redness, and more.

Depending on the specific rules and regulations surrounding what optometrists are licensed to do within a specific state, they may be able to help patients with aftercare when it comes to eye surgery.

However, even this is rare.

This is because the main difference between an optometrist vs ophthalmologist is that an optometrist cannot perform any kind of eye surgery — including but certainly not limited to LASIK.

For most people dealing with minor eye issues, the services of an optometrist will be able to give them what they need.

But if you suspect you may be suffering from an eye disease, or if you need LASIK or another form of surgery?

Then you’ll need the services of an ophthalmologist.

What Does an Ophthalmologist Do?

Now, let’s take a look at the other kind of eye specialist — an ophthalmologist.

An ophthalmologist will go to university for eight years, and, like an optometrist, they’ll also complete about a year of a medical internship afterward. But they’re also required to do a residency in ophthalmology for at least three years after that.

This means that not only can they help to prescribe you contacts or glasses, as well as to administer basic vision tests.

They can also diagnose eye conditions and diseases, prescribe medications and treatments for those issues, and, most notably, actually perform corrective surgery.

These eye specialists are also often leaders in eye care research and new treatment methods, and will likely choose one specific area of eye care to focus on.

This means that an ophthalmologist can help you to diagnose and treat things like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, or problems within the retina or the cornea. They may also be interested in pediatric eye care.

In addition to laser cataract surgery and keratoconus treatment, an ophthalmologist can also perform LASIK eye surgery to correct your vision.

Optometry vs Ophthalmology: Which Is Right for You?

Now that you have a better understanding of an what an optometrist vs ophthalmologist does?

Let’s talk more about which kind of eye specialist you should see depending on the specific problems with your vision that you’re dealing with.

In general, if you need contact lenses or a thicker glasses prescription, you won’t have any issues if you visit an optometrist. However, you could also choose to see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam and a glasses/contacts prescription.

However, because optometrists are more experienced with fitting complicated contact lenses, if you’re a contacts wearer, you may want to rely on them for help.

If you’re dealing with a serious eye issue, like diabetic retinopathy or cataracts, you should unquestionably seek out the services of an ophthalmologist. You may also look for an ophthalmologist that specializes in the eye problem or disease that you have or suspect you may have.

Are you interested in getting LASIK surgery performed? Need to have cataracts surgery completed on your eyes?

If so, then you’ll be required to go to an ophthalmologist for any kind of eye surgery.

Symptoms to Watch out For

Though no one other than an eye care professional should diagnose you with any sort of condition or disease?

There are a few key signs of eye trouble that you can watch out for.

If you experience any of the following issues, then you should consider making an appointment with either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist as soon as you can.

Things to monitor include:

  • New floaters
  • Bulging eyes
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Double vision
  • History of eye disease in the family
  • Overly red eyes
  • Limited peripheral vision
  • High blood pressure
  • Eye pain

Looking for an Ophthalmology Eye Specialist?

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand the main differences between optometry vs ophthalmology.

Though both types of eye specialist receive rigorous training and can help you with getting a glasses or contact lenses prescription?

If you know that you’ll require surgery, or if another eye specialist or doctor suspects you may have an eye disease, you’ll need to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist.

We can help you with that.

Spend some time on our website to learn more about the types of surgeries and treatments that we have to offer.

When you’re ready to see more clearly, reach out to us to book your appointment.