A routine eye exam focuses on the general health of all the structures of the eye in addition to great vision. If you have had a comprehensive eye exam, chances are you were seen by either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. So what is the the difference between the two. If you have ever undergone eye surgery, a trained ophthalmologist has done the work. Ophthalmology focuses on the surgical treatment of diseases and conditions that affect the anatomy and physiology of the eye. What this means is that an ophthalmologist takes care of both surgical procedures and in some cases medical care for the eye. On the other hand, optometrists are specialists that deal with multiple eye diseases and conditions. There is a common misconception that optometrist only provide for you visual needs (i.e. glasses and contacts), however optometrist are usually the first line in diagnosing, treating and managing eye disorders. They can also preform surgical procedures in many states.
Training and Education
Becoming an ophthalmologist requires a medical degree and completing residency like other branches of medicine. Some ophthalmologists can undergo additional training if they choose and focus on a specialty within the field.
Likewise, after receiving a Bachelor's degree, Optometrist undergo 4 years of additional schooling focused primarily on the eye and vision. They also have the option of completing a residency to specialize in sub fields.
Both Optometry and Ophthalmology training covers the entire spectrum of eye care and are trained to do thorough eye exams to prescribe glasses or contact lenses, offer medical treatment for assorted eye problems and take an active role in conducting scientific research on eye diseases and other serious vision problems. They both work to uncover causes behind these things and find cures.
The primary difference is that ophthalmologists do complex and delicate eye surgeries for qualified candidates. An ophthalmologist is a licensed medical doctor, so they are permitted to practice medicine AND surgery. An optometrist focuses on performing eye exams, prescribing corrective lenses, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases. Often, optometrists and ophthalmologists will work together to provide complete eye care for a patient by referring patients to have surgery if needed.
The fields of ophthalmology and optometry includes multiple sub-specialties where they can focus on treating and curing specific types of eye problems. This can make it easier to address specific needs of eye patients.
These sub-specialties include:
Cornea and External Disease: Diagnosing and treating diseases related to the cornea, sclera and eyelids are the primary focus of this specialty. Training within this specialty includes using specialty contact lenses to correct an irregular surface, using medication to treat various corneal disorders, and doing corneal transplant surgery and other types of corneal surgery.
Glaucoma: This specialty concentrates on medical and surgical treatment of glaucoma and other age related vision disorders that can create optic nerve damage through increased ocular pressure. This is often be treated and monitored by an optometrist until surgical intervention is warranted.
Neuro-ophthalmology: A nonsurgical specialty focused on diseases affecting the optic nerve and visual pathways. It deals with the relationship between neurologic and ophthalmic diseases and can be combined with eye and orbital surgery.
Ophthalmic Pathology: An ophthalmic pathologist examines tissue samples culled from the eye and adnexa in helping to diagnose eye diseases and vision problems.
Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery: The focus if this specialty is on reconstructive surgery in facial and orbital areas. It can include complex surgeries on eyelids, orbits, certain facial bones, and the lacrimal system.
Pediatric Optometry/Ophthalmology: This specialty focuses on dealing with vision problems and eye diseases affecting children. Pediatric optometrist offer medical and vision therapy to ensure the eyes are working accurately and as a team. In some instances, surgical treatment is needed. These can include genetic ocular abnormalities and serious eye diseases that need treatment before a patient reaches adulthood.
Vitreoretinal Diseases: Medical and surgical treatment of diseases affecting the retina and vitreous are the focus of this specialty. These diseases can be genetic and systemic in origin. Many of these disorders are asymptomatic and are located on your annual dilation by your optometrist. An optometrist or a vitreoretinal ophthalmologist uses tools like ultrasound fluorescein, angiography and electrophysiology to confirm a diagnosis. From there, an ophthalmologist can treat vitreoretinal diseases through using such procedures as laser therapy, cryotherapy, retinal detachment surgery and vitrectomy.