Difference Between Optometrist and Ophthalmologist

Vision plays an essential and irreplaceable role in the daily activities of humans and many other organisms. Optimized image is vital for many tasks necessary for the organism’s survival.


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Any defect in vision can be corrected by two types of healthcare professionals: optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Key Takeaways

  1. Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care and prescribe corrective lenses, while ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in eye care and can perform surgery.
  2. Optometrists can diagnose and treat some eye diseases, but ophthalmologists can treat a wider range of eye conditions and perform surgical procedures.
  3. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can provide comprehensive eye exams and prescribe glasses or contact lenses.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist

Optometrist is a healthcare professional who is trained and has vast knowledge about vision. They can diagnose problems related to vision. They also provide knowledge about eye health. An ophthalmologist is a doctor whose medical education is of 8 years. They are well-trained and treat eye-related problems. They also perform eye surgeries.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOptometristOphthalmologist
Is he a Medical doctorNoYes
QualificationDoctor of OptometryPost-graduation degree in ophthalmology
Surgical proceduresCan only counsel about the proceduresCan perform any functions related to eye
Prescribing medicationsCan only prescribe essential medicines related to primary eye disordersIt can prescribe drugs and treat the medicines’ adverse effects if any arise.
SalaryLesser when compared to an ophthalmologist. ( Avg. $106,073)The average salary of an Ophthalmologist is  $214,689 (Depending on several factors)


Who is Optometrist?

Optometrists are trained primary healthcare professionals who are specially trained to assess vision, detect any injuries or defects intraocularly, and find the systemic illness causing the weakness in vision.

The name of ophthalmic opticians previously known them. They have to spend years in optometry schools and should get a doctor of optometry degree.

There are several fellowships also available for them after completion of college.

The various roles of optometrists are,

  1. They diagnose various vision problems of local (Intraocular) origin or systemic origin.
  2. They can counsel and advise the patients regarding the management options for their vision problems which can be medical, surgical, or lifestyle modifications.
  3. They can treat specific vision problems like long and short-sightedness and astigmatism.
  4. They can prescribe glasses, contact lenses or low vision aids and vision therapy.
  5. They also do annual routine eye checkups and are the persons who provide eye health education to the community in most instances.
  6. In some areas, they can provide post-surgical eye care. Depending on a country’s or state’s limitations, they can also perform minor surgical procedures on eyes, like removing foreign bodies.

The educational qualification of the optometrist is a post-graduate program in optometry which lasts 4 years, depending on the university and curriculum. They will be trained in areas like,

  1. Examination techniques of all aspects concerning eyes
  2. Case history taking and counselling of patients
  3. Optics and pharmacology

The places where an optometrist can practice can be,

  1. A community health centre, hospitals
  2. A professional setting incorporates a private setup with hand-in-hand practice and an ophthalmologist.
  3. The military setting provides services to armed officers.
  4. An academic setting to teach the new budding eye doctors.
  5. A research facility to open untapped areas of science related to eyes.

Who is Ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have completed at least 8 years of medical college education with additional training on the diagnosis and treatment of almost all the problems related to the eyes. They differ from other eye doctors in the level of education and training they got.

They can do almost all the medical and surgical procedures for patients with eye problems. They are specialists in ophthalmology, which has many subspecialties also.

A general ophthalmologist can perform procedures to treat conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, strabismus, ocular tumours, injuries to the orbits, and many more.

To become a good ophthalmologist, one should have sound knowledge and perfect hand-eye coordination. The most commonly performed surgeries are necessary cataract surgery and glaucoma surgery.

Pediatric ophthalmologist deals with all the eye problems of children, especially strabismus. This requires an additional 1 year of fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology.

Neuroophthalmologists deal with the most complex disorders of the visual pathways that extend from the eye to the brain.

Ophthalmologists also deal with retinal and uveal tissue defects, most commonly because of systemic illness. The laser treatment of diseases such as detachments and retinopathy are all widely performed procedures by them.

Trained ophthalmologists also perform plastic and reconstructive eye procedures. There are fellowship programs specially designed to train doctors in such areas.

The premises where an ophthalmologist can practice includes,

  1. Primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare facilities.
  2. Corporate and private setup for treating almost all eye problems through medical and surgical procedures.
  3. Academic institutions to light the knowledge of budding doctors.
  4. Research institutions to pursue research on all disciplines related to eyes.

Main Differences Between Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

  1. An optometrist cannot perform major surgical procedures on the eyes. An ophthalmologist can perform almost any function on the eyes that facilitate bringing back the defective vision to at least near normal.
  2. Optometrists need the qualification of a Doctor in optometry. Ophthalmologist requires a postgraduate qualification in ophthalmology.
  3. An optometrist can only counsel the patients regarding managing major eye problems. An ophthalmologist can advise patients and perform medical procedures on them. 
  4. Optometrists are not medical doctors per se. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have degrees from medical school.
  5. An optometrist is trained to prescribe medications required for the condition. Ophthalmologists are trained to prescribe medications, prevent and identify the adverse reactions of the medications(if any arise), and treat them.
Difference Between Optometrist and Ophthalmologist
  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1444-0938.1975.tb01796.x
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3236713/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161642094311183
  4. https://bjo.bmj.com/content/90/5/579.short
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