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Difference between Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

When it comes to eye care, both optometrists and ophthalmologists provide essential services. But how do you know which one you need to see? What are the differences between these two types of eye care specialists? Keep reading to find out more so you can get the proper care you need for your eye health.

What is an Optometrist?

First, let’s discuss an optometrist’s specific role in caring for your eye health. To put it simply, an optometrist is a doctor specializing in eye care, so if you’re looking for the best eye doctor in Orlando, you’re looking for an optometrist. They can provide eye exams, write prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses, detect abnormalities in vision development, and treat some eye disorders, such as most eye infections.

What is an Ophthalmologist?

Generally speaking, most people view optometrists as the primary care doctors of the eye health world, while ophthalmologists are looked at as surgeons. On the other hand, an ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery and specializes in eye care. They receive more extensive training than most optometrists and can diagnose and treat a more comprehensive range of disorders. Because optometrists are licensed to practice medicine, they can write a broader range of prescriptions to treat eye health needs. Because they are licensed for surgery as well, they can provide necessary surgery to correct eye disorders.

What Can an Optometrist Treat?

We’ve already touched on a few things that optometrists can treat and services they can perform, but let’s get into a bit more detail. Services that optometrists are licensed to provide include the following:

  • Vision screenings
  • Prescriptions for glasses and contacts
  • Removing foreign bodies from the eye, if the injury is minor
  • General vision health treatment

If an optometrist detects an underlying health issue during your routine examination, they may be able to treat it, or they may have to refer you to an ophthalmologist. Conditions that your optometrist can diagnose and treat themselves include:

  • Corneal inflammation
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections
  • Glaucoma
  • Ocular allergies
  • Eye misalignment (such as lazy eye or crossed eyes)
  • Chronic dry eye

They can also provide pre- and postoperative treatment for procedures performed by an ophthalmologist.

What Can an Ophthalmologist Do?

Though an ophthalmologist can treat a wider range of eye ailments, they typically will not provide primary eye care. This means you won’t be able to receive a simple eye exam from an ophthalmologist. Many ophthalmologists will also choose to specialize in certain areas of ophthalmology, so you’ll need to find the right doctor for your exact needs. The most common procedures ophthalmologists perform are cataract and glaucoma surgery, but this can vary based on their specialization. Here are some examples of specializations that ophthalmologists can choose and the services they typically provide:

  • Pediatric ophthalmology – Diagnosing and treating children’s eye disorders
  • Neuro-ophthalmology – Treating vision disorders related to the brain, nerves, and muscles
  • Oculoplastic surgery – Providing plastic surgeries for eyelid tumors, repairing damage to eyelids, and performing other cosmetic eye surgeries
  • Vitreoretinal surgery – Providing surgical treatment for diseases related to the retina and uvea.

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Which Do You Need?

If you need general eye care, you should seek an optometrist. Even if you believe you need the care of an ophthalmologist, most ophthalmologists won’t accept an appointment with you until you’ve been referred for care by an optometrist. So, if you are having eye health issues, it’s important to make an appointment with a Central Florida eye doctor as soon as possible. Contact Bay Hill Eye Care today to schedule your eye exam.