When it comes to eye care, it can be difficult to know who to turn to. Should you go to an optometrist or an eye doctor? The answer depends on the type of care you need. An optometrist is the best choice for routine eye care, such as an annual eye exam or filling a prescription for eyeglasses, contact lenses, or eye medications. An eye doctor, on the other hand, is the best option for medical and surgical treatment for serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and laser eye surgery.
An optometrist is often the best choice for contact lens wearers. When you have blurred vision, eye pain, or “flying spots,” it's okay to see an optometrist or an eye doctor. For eye exams and prescriptions, you can see both. An optometrist is generally the best option for those who need more contacts.
Those who need surgery should consult an eye doctor. The same is true for serious conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Unlike optometrists, eye doctors are doctors (MDs) or osteopaths (DOs) who specialize in eye health and vision care. The training of optometrists includes three or more years in college and four years in optometry school to obtain the degree of doctor of optometry (OD).
The main difference between the two professions is that an eye doctor performs surgery and optometrists do not. You should see your optometrist for general eye care, including eye exams, vision correction, contact lenses, and eyeglass interventions. In addition to primary eye care, the medical optometrist also plays an important role in general medical care. While all optometrists are trained to provide primary eye care, they are perhaps best known for their expertise in vision correction and care.
If you need medical intervention or surgical care, your optometrist can refer you to an experienced eye doctor. An optician is a technician who is trained to use a prescription provided by an optometrist or eye doctor to design and adjust lenses and frames for eyeglasses. Ophthalmologists and optometrists overlap professionally in certain areas of service, such as eye exams and eye tests, leaving some patients unaware of which eye doctor to go to. While optometrists are generally not trained or licensed to perform eye surgery, they can perform preoperative and postoperative care related to eye surgery. For many people whose eyes are generally healthy and require only routine eye exams, an optometrist or eye doctor is trained to address their needs.
Ophthalmologists will have an MD or DO after their name, while optometrists will have an OD after their names. A medical optometrist is a doctor of optometry who has decided to focus exclusively on providing eye care to ensure the total visual and eye health of his patients. While the exact services vary from office to office, optometrists offer a variety of primary eye care services.