The Difference between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist

Sight is one of your most important senses, and so you should choose an eye health provider with great care – someone who uses advanced technology and offers quality services. But before getting into any other details, you should decide if you want to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist.  

The two professions are different in terms of specialisation. Many a times, rather than visiting a single individual, you can seek advice from a professional eye care team like Personal Eyes, comprising of all relevant professionals.  And by the way, an optician is yet another professional related to vision, but they aren’t really health care providers. 

Who is an optometrist? 

Optometrists are eye doctors who acquire the degree of Doctor of Optometry (OD). These professionals check both your eyes, and diagnose vision as well as health problems.  If they observe any issues, they may recommend glasses or contact lenses. Some optometrists also offer vision therapy, and low vision care.  

If you are suffering from an eye disease, then an optometrist will recommend you to an ophthalmologist so that they can treat you further. In some instances, your optometrist may also work with an ophthalmologist, especially if you are suffering from a chronic eye disease. If a surgery is performed, an optometrist may continue to provide you with post care, but they themselves will not conduct the surgery.  

In Australia, an optometrist typically studies for 5 years at university level, after which they are awarded a professional degree. Before registering themselves, they have to earn relevant experience for a year at least.  

What is an ophthalmologist? 

An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor who has gained specialisation in eye care and vision. They acquire training for performing eye exams, diagnosing and treating diseases, prescribing medications and performing surgeries. They may also suggest lenses or eyeglasses if you need them. 

Ophthalmologists undergo 12 rigorous years of training before they become registered professionals. They attend a medical school for five years and graduate with a degree in medicine. They then spend two years as qualified doctors and undergo basic training in the medical field. After this, ophthalmologists sign up for 5 years of specialised training and are then required to successfully pass exams, conducted by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO). 

Sometimes, an ophthalmologist may also be involved in research studies, making efforts to come up with the latest methods and technologies for curing eye and vision problems.  

Who is an optician  

An optician isn’t an eye doctor, but you would come across them if you are prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses. These professionals work with you and provide you eyewear based on what your ophthalmologist or optometrist has prescribed.  

So who should you visit? 

The answer depends on your needs. If you have healthy eyes and don’t require any special treatment, you can simply visit any of the two for routine eye examinations. However, if you are suffering from cataract, glaucoma or any other eye disease, then you should seek advice from an ophthalmologist. For minor eye problems like dry eyes, even an optometrist may help you out.  

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