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Should You See an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are commonly confused, which is understandable. If you Google “eye doctor near me,” the results will likely be a mix of results for optometrists and ophthalmologists, so how do you know which one to see? Both types of eye doctors specialize in eyesight and the overall health of your eyes. However, one type of eye doctor may be better suited for specific situations.

The main difference is that while both optometrists and ophthalmologists perform vision screenings, only ophthalmologists are trained to perform comprehensive eye examinations. Comprehensive exams involve dilating the eyes, and are crucial for detecting more serious eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

While ophthalmologists detect and treat these more serious eye diseases, both optometrists and ophthalmologists are trained to treat more common eye conditions, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.

Any type of eye surgery to correct for vision loss, whether from a common condition like nearsightedness or a complex disease like glaucoma is done by an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are also qualified to prescribe a broad range of medications for complicated eye conditions.

These distinctions are based on medical training. Optometrists have earned a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.), which includes four years of postgraduate doctoral training. Ophthalmologists have completed a Medical Doctor (M.D.) education, which includes four years of medical school, a year of internship, and an additional three-to-five years of postgraduate training in ophthalmology.

Which One Is Best For You?

If you are otherwise healthy but have found yourself squinting in order to see clearly, an optometrist should be able to perform an eye exam to determine if you need corrective lenses. But if you have a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration, or if you have diabetes, you should see an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye examination.

Similarly, if you’re considering LASIK surgery or suspect you may be a candidate for cataract surgery, you should see an ophthalmologist. You should also consult an ophthalmologist if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Burry, darkened, or distorted vision when looking straight ahead
  • Reduced depth perception
  • Difficulty recognizing contrast in colors or textures
  • Sensitivity to changes in light
  • Seeing white or dark spots
  • Seeing halos or floaters
  • Frequent headaches, or pain in your eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in seeing colors

Finally, to throw one more term into the mix, if an optometrist or ophthalmologist gives you a prescription for corrective lenses, you’ll want to see an optician to select and fit your new frames.

Keep this chart as a handy reference for when you need to determine whether to see an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or optician.

Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN, dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to complex eye surgeries. To meet our doctors and learn more about our specialities, visit our website or give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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