WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN OPTOMETRIST AND AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST

We all understand the difference between a Cardiologist and your Primary Care Physician. We know that we don’t go to a oral-maxillary surgeon for our annual teeth cleaning, we go to our dentist.  Yet, there is still confusion after all these years about which Eye Doctor we should see for what.  

There are two types of Eye Doctors, Optometrist and Ophthalmologist, and in today’s healthcare market it is important to understand the difference between the two.  The best explanation delivered was by Dr. Gary Gerber, a consultant with years of experience in both fields.  He said,

Ophthalmologist are great surgeons,
Optometrist are great clinicians.

You should consider your Optometrist as your Primary Eyecare Doctor.  This is who you go to for all routine care and treatment of non-surgical ocular medical conditions.  They are clinicians that spend their day only in clinic doing comprehensive and secondary care treatments. Most Optometrists manage Glaucoma, Cataract, Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Eyecare, and LASIK in house.  The one’s that do not usually have great relationships with specialized Ophthalmologist whom they refer to when necessary.

An Ophthalmologist should be considered for secondary and specialized tertiary care treatment.  While many Ophthalmologists do spend considerable time in the clinic, generally, most will focus their efforts in surgery or more advance tertiary care treatment such as laser treatment.

It is much more common for an Ophthalmologist to specialize than an Optometrist. This is even more true with the current changes of healthcare.  More Ophthalmologists are focusing their attention to specific fields such as: Retina, Glaucoma, Cataract, Cornea, etc.  While these Ophthalmologists are more than capable in performing routine eye exams, it is not how they typically spend the majority of their time like an Optometrist does.

The most important thing is to have your eyes examined yearly by an Eye Doctor that you trust.  Focus on finding an eye care professional that has the experience and technology to handle all aspects of your visual and eye health needs.  By finding that right Primary Care Eye Doctor, you will avoid unnecessary long-term costs in services, save time, and build a continuity of care that will guarantee the best for your eyes for years to come.

by Dr. Craig Miller | Eye Columbus