Difference Between an Optometrist and Ophthalmologist
Many people question who they should see for their annual eye exams. Is one doctor better than the other for preventative eye care health?
The optometrist must complete four years of post-graduate education through optometry school. Upon graduation, he holds the title of Doctor of Optometry. The optometrist is the main source of preventative eye health care for the majority of patients. He should be the first source for any eye care issues.
In addition to performing eye exams for vision issues, an optometrist may also identify more serious eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration. If these conditions are found, many times the optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist for further evaluation and treatment.
An ophthalmologist is a graduate of medical school along with additional training based on his subspecialty of practice such as certain types of surgery, immunology or pediatrics. While an ophthalmologist can also perform routine eye exams and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, most choose to focus on their specialized area of advanced eye care.
Annual Eye Exams
Your annual eye exam appointment, as well as any other appointments when you suspect an eye issue, should be scheduled with an optometrist. If necessary, the optometrist can refer you to an ophthalmologist for more specialized care. For some with conditions such as diabetes, an annual exam with an ophthalmologist is recommended. For most people, the optometrist is the main doctor seen for eye care issues including getting contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions.
To put it simply, seeing an ophthalmologist first would be similar to going to a surgeon when you have a sore throat. While there may be a condition causing the sore throat that will require the expertise of the surgeon, your first stop should be with your family doctor who can examine you to make that decision.