There are two main types of eye doctors, and the difference between “optometrist” and “ophthalmologist” is more than just their different spellings. It’s not surprising that many people aren’t sure which is which!
Ophthalmologists are physicians – doctors of medicine (MDs) who complete four or more years of pre-med, four years of medical school, and one year of internship to get their doctorate degrees. After they become physicians they undergo a residency of three or more years. This consists of medical and surgical specialty training specifically in eye care.
Ophthalmologists’ services include: medical eye care for diseases, surgical eye care for trauma, crossed eyes, cataracts, glaucoma, tumors, etc.; diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions related to other diseases like diabetes, arthritis or brain conditions, and plastic surgery for issues such as drooping eyelids or skin tumors.
Optometrists are trained to diagnose and treat vision conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. They are trained in prescribing eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye exercises, low vision aids, and vision therapy. They are also trained to identify cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal disease, and to use some medications to treat eye disease. Optometrists do not attend medical school. Most complete an undergraduate degree before beginning four years of training for an optometry (OD) degree. Some complete a postgraduate one-year clinical residency to gain specialist certification. And now you know the difference!