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Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?

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What’s the difference between types of eye doctors?

There are many reasons to visit an eye doctor. You may be having trouble seeing, you may have reached age 40 and want to get an annual eye health exam, or maybe you just want to update your look with a new pair of glasses? However, even when you’re certain of your reason for scheduling a visit to an eye care clinic, you may be uncertain about which type of eye doctor you need. Should you visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist?

Our optometrists in Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, California, help to clarify the differences between these two types of eye doctors, as well as give an explanation of the services they provide.

How does someone qualify as an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists study in medical school for four years and then complete a four-year residency. Afterwards, many ophthalmologists continue their education with a one or two-year fellowship to specialize in a particular area, such as pediatrics, retinal disease, or glaucoma. You can identify an ophthalmologist by the MD (Medical Doctor) after their name.

How does someone qualify as an optometrist?

Optometrists study in optometry school for four years and may continue for an extra year of residency to specialize in treatments such as myopia control or vision therapy. They have an OD (Doctor of Optometry) after their name.

What are the primary differences between eye care services provided by an optometrist and ophthalmologist?

Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can prescribe medicines, issue vision prescriptions, and diagnose and treat ocular diseases. However, a major difference is whether the eye doctor performs surgery or not. Optometrists can provide expert eye care services for nearly all the medical parts of ophthalmology, but they do not perform surgery. While optometrists are licensed to provide pre and postoperative care for eye surgery, ophthalmologists are also eye surgeons.

Which type of eye doctor should I visit?

That depends on what you need! For a comprehensive eye exam, both types of eye doctors are professionally qualified to do the job. If you need a new vision prescription, both types of eye doctors are also trained to test vision and prescribe glasses or contact lenses. As for the rest of the eye care services you may require, the most appropriate eye doctor can vary. For example:

  • Fittings for specialty contact lenses should generally be done by an optometrist. Optometrists often have specialized training in hard-to-fit contact lens fittings.
  • Laser surgeries, such as LASIK or PRK, cataract removal, and other surgical procedures are done by an ophthalmologist.
  • Eye disease in serious condition (not the early stage), such as severe diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration often requires medical care by an ophthalmologist, but screening and early-stage ocular disease management are carried out by optometrists.
  • Eye problems, such as blurred vision, floaters, or eye pain can be treated well by either type of eye doctor. If your optometrist diagnoses a complex medical condition, such as medically unmanageable glaucoma or serious retinal problems, he or she will direct you towards the most suitable ophthalmologist to provide treatment.
  • Vision therapy is generally provided by an optometrist.
  • Myopia control is an area of eye care handled by optometrists.

If you’re not sure which type of eye doctor you need, contact Advanced Eyecare Center and ask! Our optometrists offer eye exams and a wide range of eye care services in Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, California.

At Advanced Eyecare Center, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 310-620-1345 or book an appointment online to see one of our Manhattan Beach eye doctors.

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