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What’s the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

optometrist, Eyecare specialist in Virginia

What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is an eye care professional that is trained to provide a wide variety of eye and vision care. These professionals are often considered the primary care doctors for your vision.

Optometrists provide a range of services including regular sight testing, vision correction to match the sight test results, treatment and management of sight changes.

Optometry professionals are licensed as a Doctor of Optometry or OD after they complete four years of specialized optometry school in addition to at least three years of college prior to enrolling. An optometrist is not an MD or medical doctor.

Your OD can prescribe corrective lenses, contacts, or other vision corrective devices, detect eye abnormalities, and diagnose and treat certain eye diseases. They will also help you determine treatment plans to maintain the best eye health possible.

Even though an optometrist is not licensed to perform surgeries, they often refer patients to ophthalmologists to further explore the potential need for corrective surgery.

(Some state legislation allows optometrists to perform minor surgeries, including foreign body removal and laser eye surgery.)

What is an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists also focus on the health, wellness, and treatment of eyes and vision; they are, however, medical doctors of MDs. Ophthalmologists complete college and then go on to receive an additional eight plus years of medical training.

An ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat a wide variety of eye conditions and diseases. Similar to optometrists, they can prescribe and fit both glasses and contact lenses to correct vision.

A main difference in the practice of ophthalmologists is that they can also perform eye surgery in order to treat specific conditions in the eye.

Training to become an ophthalmologist covers all eye problems and conditions, however many choose to specialize in one specific area of medical or surgical eye care. This specialization can make them experts in areas like glaucoma, retina, cornea or even pediatrics.

What is an optician?

A third member of the eye care team that is vital to treatment and correction is an optician. Opticians are trained technicians that design, fit, and verify eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and any other corrective vision devices.

While they do not test vision or write prescriptions, opticians work to bring designer eyewear near patients needing corrective glasses and ensure proper fit and comfort. Having corrective devices that are comfortable and stylish improves their overall use, greatly impacting the treatment plan.

Opticians offer other vital services, as well. For example, the optician team at Gilbert Eye Care provides eyeglass repair in both the Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA locations.

It’s important to understand the differences among eye care professionals and to work closely with your care team to keep your vision healthy. To learn more about the differences between optometry and ophthalmology or to schedule a vision check-up with a Dr. Gilbert eye doctor in Virginia Beach or Norfolk, call us at 757.425.0200/ 757-622-0200.

Virginia Beach Location

Our Virginia Beach Eye Care office is conveniently located off Laskin Road in Hilltop.

Norfolk Location

Our Norfolk Eye Care office is off Brambleton Avenue in downtown Norfolk.

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