Optometrists specialize in care for the eye. They are not medical doctors (MD or DO) but hold Doctor of Optometry (OD) degrees. Optometrists are experts trained to examine, diagnose and manage defects and injuries affecting the eye. They can also help detect eye diseases early and help to prevent them. Common reasons to visit an eye doctor include dry eyes and vision disorders and conditions such as myopia (nearsightedness) hyperopia (farsightedness) astigmatism or glaucoma. Other reasons are vision loss, double vision, blurred vision or glare.
Responsibilities of an optometrist include:
- They can perform comprehensive eye exams and provide medical advice on common eye problems.
- They can help diagnose health conditions involving eyes, such as diabetes.
- They are also qualified to prescribe glasses and contact lenses for vision correction. An optometrist will likely refer you to a specialist in the event you have a more advanced eye condition that may require surgery. In many states, optometrists can perform procedures such as laser treatment, prescribe medication and administer anesthesia.
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Differentiating between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist
- Postgraduate training: Optometrists attend optometry school for four years and usually undergo one year of residency, while ophthalmologists attend medical school for four years, before completing a four-year residency. Apart from this, ophthalmologists are medical doctors with an MD or DO degree, whereas optometrists hold an OD. degree.
- Medical/surgical aspects: An optometrist can provide the same medical care as an ophthalmologist, but does not perform surgery. However, many states in the U.S. allow optometrists to perform procedures such as laser treatment. Ophthalmologists are surgeons that can provide other medical care, as well. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can prescribe medications.
An optometrist will likely refer you to a specialist for any advanced medical conditions that require specialized treatment. You can read, “Optometrist or Ophthalmologist: Which Is Best for Your Eye Care?” on the Cleveland Clinic website.
Sources: American Optometric Association, Alberta Association of Optometrists, Cleveland Clinic
The content herein is provided for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Medical information changes constantly, and therefore the content on this website should not be assumed to be current, complete or exhaustive. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 9-1-1 (in the United States) immediately.