Yes, I can see you for that...

  • image created by the author, Dr. Courtney Gonzales

A lot of conversations we have with patients in my office are about how, as an optometrist, I can treat your eye infection, or I can evaluate you for glaucoma or macular degeneration. I can even remove foreign bodies from the eyes, order imaging, and prescribe medications! As an optometrist, I am more than able to treat and manage disease just as well as I prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Optometrists are often confused with opticians and even obstetricians! So let’s dive in and clear up a lot of common misconceptions about the similarities and differences between optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in a branch of medicine dealing with the structure, functions, and diseases of the eye. A lot of ophthalmologists will specialize in specific areas of medical or surgical eye care such as cataract surgery or glaucoma. Other specialties include retina, cornea, and refractive surgery. Ophthalmologists hold a bachelor’s degree in pre-med undergraduate courses as well as four years of medical school and often three years of residency training in ophthalmology.

Optometrists are physicians who provide primary eye and vision care. They hold a bachelor’s degree in pre-med undergraduate courses as well as four years of optometry school focusing solely on the eye. A lot of optometrists also do a 1 year residency specializing in ocular disease, pediatrics, or contact lenses for example.

The main difference that separates whether an optometrist can see you vs. an ophthalmologist is usually surgical related. I