If you need to see an eye doctor, you might be confused about which specialist to see. You have the choice between going to an ophthalmologist and optometrist. Are both of these specialists the same? The quick answer is no. Here are the differences between the two.
First, optometrists are the specialists you see for your routine eye exams. They can perform eye exams so that you can get the corrective vision you need. After the exams, you’ll get the necessary prescription for glasses, prescription sunglasses, and contact lenses.
An optometrist can also prescribe medications for your eyes. The perfect example of this is prescription eye drops. These may be prescribed to you if you have serious dry eyes or some kind of infection you are dealing with.
Then there are ophthalmologists. Like optometrists, ophthalmologists can provide the same kind of services. They can provide you with an eye exam to figure out your vision and offer corrective vision solutions. They can also prescribe medications for your eyes as well.
What makes ophthalmologists different from optometrists is that they perform eye surgery. Certain conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and strabismus (also called lazy eye) require specialists that know how to operate and treat the condition. These surgeries cannot be performed by an optometrist.
In addition to surgery, ophthalmologists will also provide you with rehabilitation services. Your eyes must get back into shape after eye surgery. Ophthalmologists have the knowledge and experience to help you recover after such invasive surgeries.
Another title you may be confused about is an optician. An optician is simply somebody that works with an optometrist or an optical store. They are not doctors and only help with assistance in helping you find the right products.
You’re probably familiar with the person behind the counter helping you try on various frames for your glasses or different types of contacts. They will work to help you find eyewear that fits you, make the necessary customizations, and provide you with basic education about taking care of your glasses/contacts and eye health.
When Should You See an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?
If you are younger and don’t seem to have any issues with your eye health, you should probably visit an optometrist. This specialist will provide you with the basic services to check the status of your vision. The typical visit frequency can range anywhere from three to five years for younger patients and one to three years for older patients.
If you have had eye health issues in the past or are a senior, it’s best to see an ophthalmologist. You can get an expert to look over serious eye issues like glaucoma and cataracts. Ophthalmologists have received the training for these types of eye issues, which are known to affect older patients.
If you visited an optometrist and the doctor found a serious eye health problem. The doctor may refer you to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist can better diagnose the issue and provide you with options if you need surgery.
These are the core differences between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. For most people, visiting an optometrist will suffice unless they think they have a serious eye health problem. Then an ophthalmologist is preferred.
Again, you should visit an optometrist every three to five years if you are under the age of 60. Your vision will likely change as you get older. If your vision gets worse, you will want to get corrective lenses. The reason why is because your vision worsening will cause you to strain, which can affect your vision negatively even further.
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