What’s the Difference Between an Optometrist and an Ophthalmologist?
If you aren’t a doctor who specializes in the treatment of eyes, it’s only natural that you might not understand what’s the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist.
But if you suddenly find yourself in need of an eye doctor, you need to learn about the differences between these two types of eye specialists.
When should you see an ophthalmologist vs. an optometrist? What can an optometrist detect that an ophthalmologist cannot and vice versa? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.
Understanding what’s the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist (and an optician)
Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians… try saying that five times fast! All three of these titles are used by eye care professionals and the difference between their areas of expertise isn’t always obvious to the average person. Let’s break it down.
- Education: Undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, 3-8 years of residency, with an additional possible 1-year internship
- Title: Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
- Are licensed to: Perform eye exams and vision tests; diagnose and treat eye conditions; prescribe medications and corrective lenses; perform eye surgery; provide post-operative care
- Other: Subspecialties in the study of specific eye diseases and surgical techniques, may also conduct and contribute to research regularly
- Education: Undergraduate degree, four years of optometry school
- Title: Doctor of Optometry (OD)
- Are licensed to: Perform eye exams and vision tests; prescribe corrective lenses and contacts; prescribe some medications (an optometrist’s scope of practice is dependent upon each state’s board of optometry)
- Education: Opticianry training (Only in some states — including Texas)
- Title: Opticians are not doctors and thus do not have a medical title
- Are licensed to: In Texas, opticians are licensed to take a prescription (written by an optometrist or ophthalmologist) and create glasses that match your specifications
Do I need to see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?
If you have no medical history of eye and vision problems and/or simply want a routine eye exam, you will likely have all your needs met by visiting an optometrist.
However, if you do have a history of eye and vision problems and are experiencing additional symptoms, it may be in your best interest to visit an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists often provide a wider range of treatment options, including surgical solutions. For example, here are some of the procedures performed by the ophthalmologists at Eye Center in Texas:
- PRK surgery in Houston
- LASIK eye surgery in Houston
- Cataract surgery in Houston
- Eyelid surgery in Houston
- Laser eye surgery for glaucoma
Very often, you will come across clinics where optometrists and ophthalmologists work together as a team.
Please note that the ophthalmologists at Eye Center of Texas do not perform routine eye examinations. We encourage our patients to visit our partner Optometrists, available on our recommended optometrists page.
Visit the Ophthalmologists at Eye Center of Texas
At Eye Center of Texas, we understand that a visit to any doctor — be it an ophthalmologist, optometrist, dentist, or even your GP — can be stressful. That’s why our doctors always take their time with patients and prioritize their comfort and care.
If you have a pre-existing eye condition or are on the lookout for top eye surgeons in your area, request an appointment online or call Eye Center of Texas today at 713-797-1010.
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