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Optometrist or Ophthalmologist: What’s The Difference?

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When looking in your area for an eye doctor in Somerset, you may notice that there are two distinct types of eye doctors: optometrists and ophthalmologists. For those who are not familiar with the distinction between the two, it can be really confusing to decide which one you need. So, let’s take a look at how these two types of eye doctors are different, and where they may also overlap.

Optometrist (OD): Primary and Pediatric Eye Care

Optometrists offer basic eye care and vision services, often acting as the primary care provider for anything involving your eye health. They spend 4 years after college in a professional program and, upon successful completion, are considered a Doctor of Optometry. Depending on their specialty, some optometrists will continue on to pursue additional clinical training or join a fellowship program after optometry school. Though a Doctor of Optometry is a non-medical degree, optometrists are still qualified to perform some of the following essential eye care services:

  • Eye exams for the detection and non-surgical treatment of eye diseases such as glaucoma and dry eye.
  • Vision screenings and other tests for prescription of glasses or contacts
  • Monitoring progression of eye conditions related to diseases such as diabetes

Ophthalmologist: For Medical or Surgical Eye Care Needs

Ophthalmologists, by contrast, attend medical school, go for a 1-year internship and a then 3-year residency to earn their medical degree in eye care. They offer a wide range of eye care services, including:

  • Medical treatment for conditions like glaucoma and eye care emergencies such as chemical burns
  • Surgical correction of eye problems such as crossed eyes, glaucoma, cataracts and others

How to Choose An Eye Doctor

The right choice between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist depends largely on your specific needs. In many cases, there may be no need to choose in the first place, as they often work together as a team to provide you with more comprehensive eye care.

For more information on the differences between optometrists and ophthalmologists, and which may be right for you, contact our Somerset eye care team at Associates in Eye Care


How do ophthalmologists and optometrists work together?

Many times, a patient will come into an eye care practice with symptoms that indicate an eye disease. The optometrist will diagnose the disease and refer the patient for surgery to the ophthalmologist. After the surgery, the optometrist will monitor the patient and provide any follow-up care that is required. This is called co-management.

Can I go to my optometrist for LASIK surgery?

LASIK surgery is another popular area in which optometrists and ophthalmologists work together to com-manage the process. If you’re interested in LASIK or other vision correction surgeries, come into our Somerset eye care practice. We’ll evaluate your specific needs and refer you to just the right ophthalmologist to help you out.