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Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist

Unlike taking the wrong pain killers for your headache, taking the wrong medication for your eye problems can cost you your eyesight. 

You should take your time to conduct proper research when choosing an eye care specialist to treat you or your family. Having the right eye care doctor is very important when it comes to getting quality vision care. Learn the differences and the functions of an Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist.

Types of Eye Doctors: Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist

Opticians, Optometrists, and Ophthalmologists are the different types of eye care physicians. Although their level of experience, qualification, training, and scope of eye care differs, they all can work together to help you get proper eye care or eye treatment.


An optometrist is a professional who has trained to be a doctor of optometry and licensed to do eye examinations and treat the visual defect. After studying for 4 years at an optometry school and passing the exams, an optometrist is then awarded a doctor of optometry (KD) degree. 

Optometrists provide basic eye care but cannot perform eye surgeries. They provide general ocular management and conduct sight correction, treatment, sight testing, and diagnosis. Since an Optometrist has more exposure handling such cases, they are better placed to prescribe eyeglass lenses and contact lenses.


An Ophthalmologist is an Eye M.D. (eye doctor) whose specialization is eye diseases treatment and general vision care. Some Ophthalmologists can further their studies to become sub-specialists on eye areas. Their area of focus may be the surgery of eye parts such as the cornea, retina, or glaucoma.

Ophthalmologists have a wider scope of vision-related treatment and have licenses to practice medicine and perform surgeries. Complex eyesight problems are better handled by ophthalmologists since they have a superior ability to do examination, diagnosis, and treatment of vision problems.

Which Eye Specialist Should You Visit?

General Eye Examination

Optometrists or Ophthalmologists are both licensed to conduct eye tests. Although it is not known by many, infants and adults who are more than 40 years old should undergo comprehensive eye examinations. This helps in early detection of eye-related conditions which would go unnoticed.

Also, since some age-related conditions and diseased can affect the retina, it is good to have regular eye check-ups. A retina specialist can do screening and testing of your retina and also treat the retinal diseases.


Both an Optometrist and an Ophthalmologist prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses and other eye medications to patients if the eye issue is not severe. Optometrists have more exposure in eye examinations compared to Ophthalmologists. Optometrists provide wellness check-ups and if you need designer frames, they can prescribe such for you.

Contact Lens Fitting

Fitting contact lenses is an activity that requires more exposure, not qualifications. Since Optometrists have a career in which they are frequently exposed to designing, fitting and prescribing eyeglasses, and contact lenses, they are better placed to handle such a procedure.

Optometrists can help you through vision therapy and provide you with low-vision aids. They also treat conditions such as near-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism. Normal eyesight is whereby the light rays focus on your retina.

If you have myopia, it means that light rays focus in front of your retina. On the other hand, if you have hyperopia, the light rays entering your eye do not bend enough to focus on your retina. Astigmatism is an eye condition which occurs when light rays focus on more than one area of your retina.

Eye Surgery

If you are to undergo eye, laser or plastic surgery, you should schedule this with an Ophthalmologist. Surgical eye care requires a professional who has undergone the required training and qualification to handle such sensitive surgeries. These specialists also provide special eye care for conditions such as crossed eyes and trauma.

Where there is a need to do cosmetic surgery to have your wrinkles smoothed or droopy eyes lifted, an Ophthalmologist is a specialist to go to.

Critical Eye Conditions

Critical eye conditions such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, CSR, and severe macular degeneration need special attention, thus, you should consult an Ophthalmologist. They will be able to have a good look at the eye problem and may refer you to the right specialist or doctor.

Some conditions such as arthritis may affect your eye and in such cases, an Ophthalmologist will be the best specialist to treat you. The following are some of the conditions which affect the retina.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is a leading cause of eyesight loss in adults who are 50 years and older. Due to old age, the central vision gets destroyed making it difficult to do activities such as driving and reading, since they require good vision.

AMD affects the macula and although it is not painful, it kills the cells in the macula. There are two types of AMD, wet and dry AMD.

Diabetic Retinopathy

The treatment of this eye condition depends on the severity. Diabetes can lead to eye complications and this leads to damage of the retina, in progressive stages. Diabetic retinopathy causes your vision to decrease and it may even result in blindness.

To slow down the progression of this retina condition, you may get intravitreal injections or undergo laser surgery. Lifestyle changes such as controlling your blood sugar also help in slowing the progression of this condition.

Floaters and Flashes

Have you ever experienced a sensation in which you can view small dots (floaters) or some flashes of light? These are common conditions of floaters and flashes.

Sudden floaters and flashes can be an indication of a retinal problem. It may be a year or detachment of your retina and it is advisable that you make an appointment with an eye specialist soonest possible.


The uvea is a part of the eye which includes the iris and the surrounding tissue. Uveitis is a condition caused by inflammation of the uvea. Factors such as toxic infection, and age-related conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis cause uveitis.

Normally, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or steroids to treat such a condition. However, in extreme cases, you may need to undergo surgery.

Macular Hole

The central retinal area which functions to support central vision is called the macula. A macular hole is brought about when there is a small break in the macula, which may be as a result of an illness or an injury.

Your ability to see clear details will diminish and you may have clouded vision or dark spots across your field of vision. It is recommended that you visit your retina specialist frequently to have the retina hole examined. If this gets worse, you may have to undergo eye surgery to repair the damage.

Retinal Tear

A retinal tear is also referred to as retinal detachment. Early detection and treatment of this condition can help in preventing the retina from tearing and result in blindness.

Laser treatment is the preferred mode of treatment for this condition. When you suddenly experience flashes and floaters, you should immediately consult an eye specialist. You will then be referred to a retina specialist.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist? Know the Difference to Get Proper Eye Care

If you are looking for eye treatment, you now have an idea of which eye specialist you should visit when it comes to Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist. Fortunately, as a part of Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor and Haun, we have plenty Ophthalmologists and Optometrists for you to pick from.

Feel free to contact us for the best eye care services by professional and qualified specialists.