Whether you’re having a problem with your vision, need to schedule a routine eye exam, or need new glasses or contacts, choosing an eye doctor is an important health care decision. After all, you will be trusting your eye doctor to help you maintain a lifetime of good vision. However, a quick online search for an eye care professional might leave you wondering if an ophthalmologist or optometrist is best. Let’s explore the similarities and differences about what each type of eye doctor can do.

What Are Ophthalmologists?

Ophthalmologists are osteopathic doctors (D.O.) or medical doctors (M.D.) who received extensive education and training to provide eye and vision care. Typically, ophthalmologists receive an undergraduate degree, graduate medical school, complete an internship, and then complete a hospital-based residency program in ophthalmology. They are licensed to practice medicine and can also provide the full spectrum of eye and vision care, including:

  • Performing routine eye exams to detect diseases
  • Diagnosing and treating eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and pterygium excision.
  • Providing treatments for disease in the form of prescribing medications, performing treatments, and performing surgery when needed.
  • Performing eye surgery for the treatment of cataracts, yag laser treatments after cataract surgery, and blepharoplasty for the treatment of drooping lids as well as skin cancer removal and lid reconstruction.
  • Writing prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses when needed.

Ophthalmologists must also meet continuing education requirements to maintain an active license and stay up-to-date with the latest research and standards of eye care.

What Is an Optometrist?

Unlike ophthalmologists, optometrists are not medical doctors, and they cannot perform eye surgery. After completing an undergraduate degree program, optometrists attend four years of optometry school to receive a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Similar to ophthalmologists, optometrists also do the following:

  • Examine your eyes for health and vision problems
  • Diagnose eye problems, such as farsightedness, nearsightedness, and glaucoma
  • Prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Provide vision therapy and low-vision care
  • Prescribe medications
  • Assist with before-and-after surgery care for patients undergoing eye surgery
  • Make referrals to a specialist

Like ophthalmologists, optometrists must also take continuing education classes to maintain licensure and stay current with standards of eye care.

Which Doctor Is Best for Your Eye Care?

Which eye care professional you should see depends on your specific needs and overall health. For most people, seeing an optometrist is an excellent starting point to maintaining a lifetime of good vision. If your eyes are healthy and you only need to receive a general eye exam, optometrists have the training and education to meet your needs. Although they are not medical doctors, optometrists are trained to detect eye abnormalities during a routine eye exam, and they will be able to refer you to an ophthalmologist for additional evaluation. Optometrists can also diagnose and treat common eye problems like dry eye and glaucoma.

If you are over the age of 40, or have a family history of eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, or are diabetic, the American Academy of Ophthalmologists recommends that you receive a baseline screening from an ophthalmologist. Since your risk of many serious eye problems increases after the age of 40, ophthalmologists can detect and diagnose these issues before they reach an advanced stage.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious eye disease, such as diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration, or if you’re experiencing blurry vision, or seeing flashes of light, ophthalmologists should be your primary provider of eye care. They have the expertise and medical knowledge necessary to design a treatment plan to preserve your vision and can perform eye surgery if necessary.

Schedule Your Eye Exam at Rowan Eye Center

Routine eye examinations are essential in ensuring a lifetime of good vision and eye health. By scheduling regular eye exams at Rowan Eye Center, your eye care professional can help you maintain your best vision while also helping to protect your precious sense of sight by detecting and treating common eye problems and diseases. Don’t wait until you’re experiencing problems with your vision to visit an eye doctor! Contact Rowan Eye Center today to schedule an appointment, and let Carey T Rowan, M.D and Dr. Alicia Havens help you in maintaining healthy eyesight for life.