Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist: Which Do I Need to See?

If you have received routine vision care recently, you likely utilized the services of an optometrist. However, in the process of scheduling an eye appointment, you may have come across another type of eye doctor that begins with the same letter: an ophthalmologist. These two vision care specialists can work in concert to provide your family with the eye care solutions you need, but they have very different areas of expertise.

To make an educated decision regarding which professional to see, take a moment to learn about the distinctions between these two eye care providers.

Schedule an eye appointment with an optometrist as featured in this image in front of an eyewear display at Complete Eye Care of Medina.

When to See an Optometrist

In the simplest terms, an optometrist is a vision care specialist who is qualified to manage and treat the vast majority of vision-related issues. Optometrists receive a doctoral degree from a specialized school prior to practicing.

These providers offer a full suite of family eye care capabilities, including vision tests, lens prescription and adjustment, and daily vision maintenance. For minor issues such as dry eyes, redness, soreness, and vision problems, optometrists have the experience and training to provide solutions. Optometrists are also the preferred providers of annual vision check-ups.

In the event that the optometrist perceives a major issue pertaining to your long-term eye health, they may refer you as a patient to another medical doctor such as an ophthalmologist. Sometimes, in the practice of routine vision care, optometrists uncover symptoms that hint at larger underlying issues that need to be addressed.

An ophthamologist examines a pediatric patient's eye during an routine eye appointment scheduled on the Complete Eye Care of Medina website.

When to See an Ophthalmologist

Ophthalmologists receive different training than optometrists, and therefore specialize in a totally separate list of services. These vision care professionals attend medical school and complete 12 total years of training before joining a practice. Ophthalmologists are much more focused on diseases of the eye and how they can affect your overall health.

Many ophthalmologists are constantly engaged in research projects that further the academic literature on eye diseases, their symptoms, and effective treatments. In many cases, ophthalmologists receive referred patients from other medical doctors and optometrists who encounter issues during check-ups or routine eye care.

As medical doctors, ophthalmologists are also qualified and trained to perform eye surgery. For those with serious vision problems or degeneration that requires this type of intervention, you’ll need to schedule an eye appointment with an ophthalmologist. If you have relatively healthy eyes, and you have not been explicitly referred to an ophthalmologist, then an optometrist is the way to go.

Experience Better Family Eye Care

For all things eye-related, trust the experienced vision care specialists at Complete Eye Care of Medina. Our team of optometrists have the diagnostic experience and tools to help treat and prevent common vision issues, uncover more serious problems and bring clarity to any questions you may have. We take a consultative, one-on-one approach to family eye care, working alongside you to manage your eye health needs. From standard eye exams, to corrective lenses, to prescribed treatments, we are dedicated to keeping your family’s eyes healthy and seeing clearly. Contact us to schedule an eye appointment.