What Is the Difference Between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist?


In medicine, there are a lot of initials that add up to a lot of hard work and studying. When it comes to eye-care professionals, these include MD, DO, and OD. Each undergoes different training levels to become an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. Practices such as Edina Eye in Minneapolis, MN, have both types of doctors. If you’re not sure what type of doctor you need to see, here’s a quick guide.

Chief Difference: Medical Degrees and Schooling

An ophthalmologist is either a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathy (DO). From college to medical school to internship to residency, ophthalmologists complete at least 12 years of medical training (sometimes more).

Optometrists also complete a lengthy training period although not usually as long as an ophthalmology career path. They attend a four-year college as well as four years of training at an optometry school.

Both ophthalmologists and optometrists also earn continuing education credits to ensure they know the latest advancements and standards of care. Neither professional type ever stops learning.

Chief Difference: Skills Training

Ophthalmologists and optometrists each have a different scope of practice. A scope of practice includes the tasks a doctor is specially trained in and can perform.
Training that’s included in an optometrist’s scope of practice includes:
• Examining eyes and testing a person’s vision
• Prescribing glasses and contact lenses
• Prescribing medications that can treat specific eye problems and diseases

Optometrists usually treat those who have difficulty seeing, but don’t necessarily have other eye-related medical conditions. They also commonly treat dry eyes.

The scope of practice for ophthalmologists include:
• Diagnosing and treating eye diseases
• Performing eye exams
• Performing eye surgery
• Writing prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses

Each state has laws that list the eye conditions optometrists can treat. Typically, an ophthalmologist will treat a wider variety of eye-related diseases. Examples of these diseases include cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration. If surgery or specialty medical care may be needed, a person should see an ophthalmologist.

Proud to Serve You

Edina Eye has a lengthy history of offering the best in ophthalmology care in eight locations in Minnesota. Whether you need an optometrist or ophthalmologist’s care, each of these well-educated professional categories is available.
If you have questions or unsure if you should make an appointment with a Minneapolis, MN, ophthalmologist or optometrist, please call our office at (952) 832-8100.


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