What are the Differences Between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist?

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Key Takeaways

  • Ophthalmologists and optometrists are both eye doctors but assist in vision correction in different ways. 
  • Optometrists provide comprehensive primary eye care services and offer routine eye care, as well as corrective measures for refractive errors through the use of eyeglasses and contact lenses. In a clinical setting, optometrists can diagnose and manage eye diseases, and provide treatment and follow-up care following surgical eye procedures.
  • An ophthalmologist is a highly trained medical doctor who specializes in the intricate workings of the body, with a particular focus on disorders of the eye in conjunction with other body functions. Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat eye diseases, as well as perform surgical procedures on the eye and surrounding orbital areas in addition to follow-up eye care. Ophthalmology is a very broad specialty that can be further broken down into subspecialties like the anterior segment or retina, among others.  Dr. Iskander is a fellowship-trained refractive specialist who is experienced in helping patients see without the use of glasses or contacts by correcting refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia, and astigmatism.

Both an ophthalmologist and optometrist are referred to as eye specialists. The main differences are the scope of education and their professional services to remove visual hindrances and allow patients visual clarity. At San Antonio Eye Specialists we find both specialties to accommodate the different needs of the patients. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist.

What Is An Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist possesses an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree. Ophthalmology is a delicate, and complex branch of medicine. Years of training begin with the completion of an undergraduate college degree, followed by 4 years of medical school, 1 year of internship, and a 3-year approved surgical residency program. Some surgeons further specialize by completing a fellowship, lasting 1-2 years.

When would a patient seek an ophthalmologist? An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor trained in the complex systems of the body with an emphasis on eye disorders. They are able to diagnose and treat eye diseases and perform surgery. Depending on the surgical subspecialty, they can specialize in one or more of the following: LASIK, cataract removal, glaucoma, corneal disease, and oculoplastics.

Dr. Iskander is fellowship-trained in refractive surgery and specializes in helping patients achieve visual freedom by correcting refractive errors without the use of glasses and contact lenses but using surgical procedures. Refractive surgical options include LASIK, PRK, ICL, EVO ICL, cataract removal, and RLE (Refractive Lens Exchange). Dr. Iskander also performs oculoplastics and has beautiful results.

What Is An Optometrist?

An optometrist possesses an OD (Doctor of Optometry) degree. Optometry is a 4-year educational program following the completion of a 4-year undergraduate degree. Optometrists offer primary vision care ranging from diagnosis, management, and treatment plans. They are excellent clinicians and provide routine eyecare and correct refractive errors using contact lenses and glasses.

Optometrists may also specialize in a variety of areas such as Low Vision Care which is a passion for Dr. Geneva Means and Therapeutic Glaucoma Management. Dr. Antonio Urbina, III specializes in Ocular Surface Diseases such as Dry Eye and Therapeutic Glaucoma Management. Both our optometrists play a fundamental role in the preoperative and postoperative care of all surgical patients.

Trust San Antonio Eye Specialists For All Of Your Vision Related Needs

We have a remarkable team of honest, compassionate professionals at San Antonio Eye Specialists working together to help you achieve your best-corrected vision. We have surgical and non-surgical options, depending on your needs. For your eyes...don't compromise!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

The main difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist is their level of education in medical training and scope of practice. Optometrists typically have a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and specialize in diagnosing and managing common eye conditions, prescribing corrective eyewear, and providing routine eye care. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors that hold an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) and specialize in eye care with an emphasis on eye disorders as well as performing surgeries on the eye. 

How do I know if I need to see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?

Generally speaking, optometrists provide routine eye exams or prescriptions for corrective eyewear.  Sometimes, optometrists refer patients to an ophthalmologist for more complex eye conditions,  eye surgeries, or chronic eye diseases.  

Can optometrists perform eye surgery like ophthalmologists?

Optometrists are not trained to perform eye surgery. Ophthalmologists are trained to perform a wide range of surgical procedures on the eyes and surrounding orbital regions and can be divided into two general categories, anterior segment (front of the eye) and retina (back of the eye).  Within the field of ophthalmology, there are many subspecialized surgical specialties that require years of medical training and even fellowship training.