Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist: How To Choose An Eye Doctor

23 September 2014
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog


Knowing the difference between an ophthalmologist and optometrist is important in ensuring you receive quality services for your eye problems. Each of these two eye specialists is ideal for specific cases. This piece seeks to highlight vital information about each of these specialties. You will also learn which of them is perfect for what eye problem.


An ophthalmologist is a doctor of osteopathic (DO) or medical doctor (MD) trained to offer a full spectrum of eye and vision care (eye examinations, medical eye care, contact lenses, vision services and surgical eye care). This eye expert completes four years in college, four years in medical school, one year in internship and atleast three years in a hospital-based ophthalmology residency.


An optometrist refers to a healthcare professional who provides primary vision care. Optometrists are not medical doctors. This professional completes atleast three years in college and four years at optometry school. An optometrist is licensed to:

  • Perform eye exams
  • Conduct vision tests
  • Prescribe and dispense corrective lenses
  • Detect certain eye abnormalities
  • Prescribe medications for particular eye diseases

Ophthalmologist vs. optometrist: who is good at what?

If your eyes do not require specialised surgical or medical treatment, the type of eye professional to visit or consult lies squarely on personal preference. Both ophthalmologists and optometrists can detect, diagnose, manage and treat eye diseases. However, if you have a complex eye problem such as cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma, it is advisable to seek the services of an ophthalmologist. This professional is skilled and highly trained in assessing, monitoring, and treating any serious or complex eye condition.

Optometric services are ideal for common eye problems like eye infections and dry eyes. They can also handle some chronic eye diseases like glaucoma.

Note: Only ophthalmologists can offer an entire scope of eye treatment options including (but not limited to) eye surgery for complex and minor eye disorders.

Vision Insurance & How to Choose an Eye Doctor

Although you might have a vision insurance policy which covers eye care, it is crucial to determine whether your prospective eye doctor qualifies as an authorised provider under your current plan. Moreover, find out which out of pocket expense you will cater for the exam.

To get this information, patients are expected to provide their insurance details to their doctor. You can also get a directory of all eye doctors that accept a company's vision plan from the insurance company's website.

Finally, gather all relevant information (qualifications, scope of treatment, skills, accreditation etc) about your prospective eye specialist before settling for his or her services.