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Ophthalmologist Vs. Optometrist

Arjun Kulkarni
What is the exact difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist? They are similar in some ways, but totally different to those already working in the fields. Read on to know the exact difference between the two professions.
Ophthalmologists and optometrists are two most common types of eye doctors, but who do you go to for a particular eye problem? Who will you go to in case of an eye infection and who will you go to when you want to measure your vision?
There are quite a few differences between these two professions. So, we will look at both the professions one by one to draw out the differences between the two.


An ophthalmologist may be qualified with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Ophthalmology (D.O.) degree.
They have to complete 4 years of medical education, after which they have to give a series of exams testing their thoroughness in the knowledge of ophthalmology. On passing these tests, the person is given the license to practice his/her trade.
An ophthalmologist is the doctor you would go to in case of eye diseases/infections. Depending on the course which the person attends, he/she may be a general ophthalmologist or may have a specialization in certain disorders.
The common eye problems which you would expect an ophthalmologist to treat range from prescribing reading glasses to performing complex eye surgery. Some of the eye problems for which you would visit this doctor include phacoemulsification for cataracts and elective refractive surgeries.
He/she is also the person to go to in case you are looking for the LASIK eye surgery (laser in-situ keratomileusis). An ophthalmologist may have also completed sub-specialization in cornea and external diseases, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, ophthalmic pathology, pediatric ophthalmology, or vitreoretinal diseases.


He has a completely different qualification, which is also related to the eyes. After graduation, a student doesn't go to a medical school, but instead attends a 4-year postgraduate course in optometry.
At the end of their course and on passing all the relevant tests, optometrists are given the O.D. degree, which stands for Doctor of Optometry, which gives him/her the license to practice this science.
They may also go for a specialization in optometry-related fields, like contact lenses, family practice optometry, geriatric optometry, hospital-based optometry, ocular disease, pediatric optometry, primary care optometry, vision therapy, etc. Optometrist etymologically means measuring vision, which is what they do.
So, you would be visiting one if you have problems like farsightedness, shortsightedness, presbyopia, and astigmatism. An optometrist measures your range of vision and also prescribes the power of the glasses or contact lenses, in case you need vision correction. But, for surgical procedures for the eyes, it is better to go to an ophthalmologist.
As you can see now, they are two very different types of eye doctors. So, depending on the eye problem you are facing, you can visit either of them. If it is related to eye surgery, you go to the ophthalmologist; while if you want to get lenses, then head to an optometrist.