Going to the “eye doctor” sounds simple enough, but when you’re dealing with something as complex as the human eye, choosing the right kind of doctor is important. The types of eye doctors you may be most familiar with are an ophthalmologist and an optometrist.
The ophthalmologist is a medical doctor or MD. The ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine after graduating from a college or university; receiving an additional eight years of medical training (which includes medical school, an internship, and residency); and passing a state exam.
Ophthalmologists who choose to specialize in certain eye diseases or parts of the eye are called subspecialists and receive an additional year or two of training in that particular area.
Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat diseases of the eye. They may also conduct surgery on the eye. Prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses is another duty they perform. Some ophthalmologists choose to conduct research and look for better ways to treat eye diseases.
Unlike the ophthalmologist, the optometrist is a doctor of optometry or OD. After graduating from college, the optometrist attends a four-year school of optometry. The optometrist must also pass a state exam to receive a license to practice optometry.
The primary responsibility of the optometrist is to diagnose, treat, and manage vision changes. This is done through eye examinations, vision testing, and the prescription of eyeglasses and contact lenses. In some states, optometrists are able to prescribe medications for certain eye conditions and even perform some minor surgical procedures.
If you’re having some minor problems reading from a far distance, you may be fine seeing an optometrist. However, if you are over the age of 40 or have other symptoms or risk factors you may want to be examined by an ophthalmologist. These risk factors may include diabetes, high blood pressure, double vision, injury or pain in the eye, etc.