While some people may think that an optometrist and an ophthalmologist are one and the same, there are some very key differences between the two. Both are considered “Eye Doctors,” but the education and training that the two professions require are vastly different, as are many of the services they can provide.
An ophthalmologist, also known as an Eye M.D., is a medical doctor or surgeon; an optometrist is not. While both professionals are required to complete an undergraduate degree, the ophthalmologist must then obtain a degree from a four-year medical school, followed by a one-year internship and a three-year ophthalmology residency. Many ophthalmologists also receive one or two more years of training in a surgical subspecialty.
In comparison, optometrists graduate from a four-year optometry school where they learn how to check vision, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and diagnose certain eye diseases. They graduate with a Doctor of Optometry degree and are licensed to practice optometry, not medicine. Until recently, they were not allowed to treat eye diseases with medication, but are now allowed to do so in many states. With the exception of the state of Oklahoma, optometrists are not allowed to perform surgical procedures.
As medical doctors, ophthalmologists are qualified and licensed to provide the full spectrum of eye care – from routine eye exams and the prescription of corrective lenses, to the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and eye surgery.
You should see an ophthalmologist if you experience a decrease or distortion of vision, an eye injury or eye pain, a curtain or veil blocking your vision, red eye, bulging of one or both eyes, misaligned eyes, double vision, haloes (circled colors around lights), specks in your vision, loss of peripheral vision, or eyelid abnormalities. You should also have regular eye exams if you have AIDS, diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of eye disease.
At Eye Care Associates of St. Louis, we have both ophthalmologists and optometrists on our staff. Our doctors work together to provide the most comprehensive care for your vision and eye health needs. Call our offices at (314) 863-4200 with any questions or to make an appointment.