Having healthy vision is essential for our daily lives, and it's important to know which eye doctor to see for the best care. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both trained to provide eye care, but they specialize in different areas. Optometrists are primary care providers who specialize in vision tests and corrections, while ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating eye diseases. It's important to understand the differences between these two types of eye doctors so you can make sure you're getting the best care for your eyes.
Optometrists are health professionals who provide primary eye care that ranges from vision tests and corrections to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more of college. They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and eye tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases. Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify, and adjust lenses and frames for eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other devices to correct vision.
They use prescriptions provided by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but they don't do vision tests or write prescriptions for vision correction.Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating eye diseases. They receive a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree after completing four years of medical school, followed by one or two years of additional training called fellowship in one of the main subspecialty areas such as glaucoma, retina, cornea, pediatrics, neurology, and plastic surgery. This additional training and knowledge prepares the ophthalmologist to deal with more complex or specific conditions in certain areas of the eye or in certain groups of patients.We all depend on our vision in more ways than we can realize. Without healthy vision, our ability to work, play, drive, or even recognize a face can be drastically affected.
Many factors can affect our eyesight, including other health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Having a family member with eye disease can also make you more likely to have that condition.Eye disease that steals sight can appear at any time. Very often they are imperceptible at first and are difficult to detect. That's why it's so important to see an ophthalmologist for a full eye exam before age 40, and then as often as your eye doctor tells you.The following are just some of the signs or risk factors for eye disease.
If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to visit an ophthalmologist:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Trouble seeing at night
- Seeing flashes of light
- Seeing halos around lights
- Eye pain
- Redness in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Dry eyes
Certain medical conditions may require you to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist for regular checkups because they put your vision and eye health at risk. When talking about the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist, it's almost like comparing your family doctor to a cardiologist. While all optometrists are trained to provide primary care for your eyes, they may be best known for their expertise in vision correction and care. These specialized physicians have additional and advanced training in subspecialties often through residency programs focused exclusively on eye diseases and conditions such as dry eye disease, glaucoma, diabetic eye health, age-related macular degeneration among others.
Having an annual medical eye exam can help identify threatening problems before damage occurs.