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Optometrist Vs Ophthalmologist: Do You Know The Difference?

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When it comes to protecting the health of your eyes, there are two medical professionals that you should be familiar with, an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. While many people believe that these two professions are one and the same, the truth is, there are some significant differences between these two eye care professionals. Understanding these differences will ensure that you know which professional to turn to for all of your ocular health concerns.


Optometrists are not medical doctors. Instead, they are doctors of optometry. The reason that this distinction is so important is that while medical doctors attend medical school in order to learn about treating illness in each body system, optometrists will spend four years in optometry school focusing purely on illnesses that impact your eye health.

The primary focus of an optometrist is on vision. Consequently, an optometrist is whom you will most likely see each year for your annual vision test or to obtain corrective lenses.

Optometrists will also deal with the diagnosis and treatment of common ocular diseases and abnormalities. However, when it comes to dealing with serious eye health problems that may require surgery, an optometrist will likely refer you to an ophthalmologist.


Ophthalmologists are medical doctors. Unlike optometrists who are solely trained in dealing with occur health problems, ophthalmologists will be trained in dealing with a variety of medical problems. However, their area of expertise will be in diagnosing and treating ocular diseases.

Along with their medical degree comes the ability to perform surgery. Consequently, ophthalmologists will typically deal with issues such as glaucoma and cataracts which may need surgery to treat.

While some ophthalmologists will choose to deal with all eye health issues, including vision tests and basic checkups, others will specialize in dealing only with the most serious ocular diseases. Those who choose to narrow their scope of work are often known as sub-specialists. Some of the most common sub-specialists are those who deal with glaucoma, pediatrics, and cosmetic surgery.

In Conclusion

When looking to protect your eye health, it is extremely important that you know where to turn for the help you need. While both optometrists and ophthalmologists specialize in the area of eye health, the services they offer can be quite different. This is why it is so important for you to understand both the similarities and differences between these eye health professionals. However, if ever you find yourself dealing with a situation where you are unsure of which professional to turn to, making an appointment with an optometrist like Arizona Eye Specialists will allow you to get the initial checkup you require, as well as a referral to an ophthalmologist if it proves necessary.