If you’ve ever had an eye exam or needed treatment for an eye condition, you probably know how many types of eye doctors there are — from ophthalmologists to optometrists, figuring out who you should see and when can be confusing.
Choosing the right eye doctor isn’t a decision you should take lightly. Your eye doctor is responsible for helping you maintain your eyesight and overall eye health, especially as you age and have a higher risk for conditions like cataracts.
How do you know when to choose between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist? Whether you’re scheduling a routine eye exam or have a more serious vision problem, it’s time to find the right professional who specializes in the care your eyes need.
Let’s explore the different services Las Vegas ophthalmologists and optometrists provide and how to pick the best eye care professional for you.
What Is an Optometrist?
An optometrist could be considered more of a general practitioner, but specifically for your eyes. The services they offer can differ depending on the practice, but most optometrists provide a wide range of basic eye care.
They’re most known for vision correction and care. This means improving and maintaining the sharpness of your vision as it changes throughout your life.
The kind of services you can expect from an optometrist include:
- Eye exams
- Vision tests
- Eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
- Contact lens fittings
- Examinations for common eye diseases or conditions
For the most part, an optometrist is an excellent choice for routine eye care needs. If you’re getting a regular eye checkup or need a new prescription, an optometrist is the best choice.
If you’re worried about a specific eye issue, you can still turn to an optometrist for diagnosis and treatment. Many optometrists are qualified to examine, diagnose, and monitor the progression of eye diseases. They can even prescribe you medications and start a treatment plan. However, if the condition requires more advanced care, they may refer you to a specialized ophthalmologist for surgery or other medical intervention.
What Is an Ophthalmologist?
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor licensed to practice surgery. They are considered secondary-level eye care providers, which means they have more advanced training and can practice advanced medicine.
Ophthalmologists have gone through medical school and specialized ophthalmological training. Some may also have advanced specialties in specific areas like glaucoma, retinal conditions, neurology, laser eye surgery, or pediatrics.
In many cases, an ophthalmologist can provide many of the same services that an optometrist can, including basic eye care. However, their additional medical training enables them to perform advanced procedures. Some services provided by an ophthalmologist include:
- Surgical treatment for cataracts, eye trauma, glaucoma, and more
- Laser eye surgery (LASIK) to correct vision
- Rehabilitation services after eye surgery
Many ophthalmologists will work with optometrists to provide complete care for their patients.
Ophthalmologists vs. Optometrists: What You Need to Know
The doctor you see depends on the level of care you need. The best way to understand the difference between ophthalmologists and optometrists is by using a classic medical example. You go to a family doctor or a primary care physician for an annual checkup or when you are concerned about non-emergency issues (such as an unusual rash or difficulty sleeping). However, if the physician finds you have a more advanced condition, they might send you to a specialist like a cardiologist or a neurologist.
An optometrist and an ophthalmologist work in much the same way. You might benefit from an optometrist for basic eye care, but they may refer you to an ophthalmologist for more advanced treatment. If you prefer, you can bypass the optometrist entirely and work only with a trusted ophthalmologist.
Here are some suggestions for the following services you might need:
Exams and Eye Prescriptions
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can perform eye exams. If you need a prescription for glasses or contact lenses, both professionals will be able to provide one.
Laser Surgery and Other Surgeries
If you want to get corrective surgery like LASIK, an ophthalmologist is the right choice. They’re trained to handle surgical eye needs, but your optometrist will not be licensed to perform eye surgery.
Serious Eye Conditions
For more serious eye conditions, like diabetic retinopathy or advanced ocular problems, you’re better off working with a specialist to ensure you get the prompt care you need. If you see an optometrist first, they will likely refer you to a specialist anyway.
Both an optometrist and an ophthalmologist can provide preventative care and eye medication prescriptions, along with regular checkups to monitor the progress of your condition. However, only an ophthalmologist can offer emergency eye care services like a surgical intervention.
How To Choose the Las Vegas Eye Doctor You Need
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists are eye care professionals who can care for your vision. However, they differ in the scope of their practice and their specialties. While optometrists tend to offer more basic eye care and treatment, ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in surgical procedures.
Choosing the right eye care professional comes down to what services you need and what kind of specialist you prefer. Whichever you choose to see, it’s important you select the right Las Vegas ophthalmologist to take care of your vision. The most important thing is finding an eye doctor you know and trust.
If you live in the Las Vegas area, our ophthalmologists have the training to handle anything from a basic checkup to surgical procedures like LASIK and cataract surgery. We work with our patients to ensure a comfortable experience from start to finish, so you feel confident you’re getting the treatment you need. Ready to work with us? Contact Brimhall Eye today to schedule an appointment.