Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist

What’s the difference between them, and when do you need one — or both?



Let’s start with the similarities: both optometrists and ophthalmologists are doctors. Both types of providers perform routine vision and medical eye examinations, write prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses, and evaluate a patient’s ocular health for conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.


The biggest difference is optometrists are like primary care providers for your eyes, while ophthalmologists perform surgeries and may specialize in a specific part of the eye or disease (i.e. glaucoma, retina, cornea).


It is important to get an annual eye exam not only to evaluate vision clarity, but also to ensure good ocular and systemic health. With a comprehensive eye exam, both optometrists and ophthalmologists can assist in the diagnosis of medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and some types of cancers. Optometrists and ophthalmologists work closely with one another to ensure patients receive the best care based on their visual and medical needs.


One common cause of blurry vision later in life is cataracts, the progressive clouding of the lens in the eye. Patients often complain of night-time glare, needing more overhead light to read, and overall blur. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can diagnose cataracts and surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist.




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