Patients often ask about the difference between their eye doctor who gives vision exams and an ophthalmologist. So, what is an ophthalmologist, and what role do they play in your eye care?
The Difference Between an Ophthalmologist and Optometrist
An ophthalmologist is a type of eye specialist. Think of the routine eye doctor as your primary care provider and your ophthalmologist as the specialist you see for the treatment of specific conditions.
The most significant difference between an ophthalmologist and other types of eye doctors is that ophthalmologists are medical doctors. They complete a bachelor’s degree, medical school, and continue on to participate in a residency program. All told, an ophthalmologist might spend more than 12 years on education and earning the appropriate credentials. Ophthalmologists also provide surgical services, which other vision specialists are not licensed to do.
In comparison, an optometrist typically spends between 6 and 8 years in school. After completing a two or four-year degree, an optometrist also undergoes four years of optometry school. While an optometrist obtains a Doctor of Optometry, they are not medical doctors.
What Conditions do Ophthalmologists Treat?
For simple vision correction, a visit to the optometrist is in order. For those with cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, or for those with conditions that affect the retina or cornea, an ophthalmologist appointment is necessary. Your optometrist can refer you to an ophthalmologist if they notice a more serious condition.
Ophthalmologists often specialize in specific areas of treatment. LASIK vision correction is also available through an ophthalmologist. At an ophthalmologist’s office you might receive treatment for:
- Corneal disorders
- Diabetic eye disease
- Dry eyes
- Floater removal
- LASIK vision correction
An ophthalmologist may also offer treatment for other eye conditions and diseases like macular degeneration or eyelid disorders.
What Is an Ophthalmologist’s Specialty?
Some ophthalmologists specialize in treating specific visual ailments. Techniques might include both surgical and nonsurgical treatments. An ophthalmologist who specializes in surgical corrections may not offer standard vision tests and corrective prescriptions. Some typical specialties consist of glaucoma, the retina, the cornea, pediatric ophthalmology, neurology, or oculoplastic surgery.
Each of these specialties might offer surgical techniques specific to an eye condition. An ophthalmologist with a pediatric specialty might have experience at working on smaller and less developed eyes. A practitioner who works with older adults might have more experience with eye diseases and conditions related to aging.
When to Make an Appointment
In general, your optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist when they detect the signs of a condition that might need specialist treatment. For example, most optometrists perform pressure tests to help diagnose glaucoma. In the early stages, an optometrist might prescribe medication to help control pressure. However, they may also recommend consulting an ophthalmologist for further treatment.
An ophthalmologist can surgically correct glaucoma, dramatically improving visual acuity in patients who might not respond well to medications. If you are worried, then you can visit an ophthalmologist without an optometrist recommendation.
Are you looking for a local eye doctor in Las Vegas? Brimhall Eye offers treatment for most eye conditions. Our skilled doctors evaluate each patient and make treatment recommendations based on personal medical history. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!