While an ophthalmologist and an optometrist both work in the eye health care field, there are distinct differences between the two professions. An ophthalmologist who specializes in a variety of eye disorders and conditions, while an optometrist generally checks eyes for the prescription of corrective lenses.
A key distinction between an ophthalmologist and optometrist is that an ophthalmologist is a physician, while an optometrist is not licensed to practice medicine. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that an ophthalmologist has more education than an optometrist. After college, an ophthalmologist generally is required to graduate from a four-year medical school, spend at least one year in medical or surgical training and at least three years in a residency program. An ophthalmologist receives training in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of various eye afflictions.
An optometrist is licensed to practice optometry and is not a medical doctor. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that an optometrist generally has seven years of medical training after high school. To earn a Doctor of Optometry degree, a person generally needs to complete four years of college and four years at an optometric college.
An optometrist has limited experience in dealing with patients suffering an eye disorder or disease. Therefore, an optometrist’s workload does not deal with sick patients. Instead, an optometrist often sees patients needing eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, an ophthalmologist, trained in clinical and surgical procedures for the eyes, spends the majority of his work load with ill patients who require eye care and eye treatment.
An ophthalmologist, like an optometrist, can prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. With their specialized training, an ophthalmologist usually has an area of specialty. Eye care areas that ophthalmologists receive training in include cornea disease, glaucoma, neurological diseases, eye tissue examination, reconstructive surgery around the eye and the development of eye abnormalities in children. Ophthalmologists often conduct eye research as well.
An optometrist provides a variety of eye care services. An optometrist tests for and diagnoses glaucoma, cataracts and retinal diseases, according to Medicinenet.com. Depending on where she is licensed, an optometrist can treat these conditions. An optometrist also detects illnesses such as high blood pressure of diabetes that may disturb the eyes. In addition, an optometrist checks to see if a patient is nearsighted, farsighted or has a stigmatism and can provide prescriptions to treat any such visual condition through glasses or contact lenses.