Learn the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist to choose an eye care professional.

What’s the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist?

When looking for an eye care specialist, most people just search for an eye doctor. But did you know that could mean two different things?

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both eye care professionals who can help patients like you with a variety of needs. With different educational backgrounds, they may serve different patients. To choose the best option for you, you should first know what the differences are between the two eye care professionals.


What do optometrists do?

Learn the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist to choose an eye care professional.

Optometrists provide vision care services to a variety of patients. After completing their undergraduate college degree, they attended a four-year professional program, received a doctor of optometry degree, and completed rotationals (similar to internships) before serving patients.

Patients visiting an optometrist might need:

  • Vision correction exams
  • Prescriptions and fittings for glasses and contacts
  • Diagnosis and treatment of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism
  • Treatment of some eye-related conditions
  • Prescriptions to treat some eye conditions
  • Vision therapy services
  • A referral for LASIK or another corrective procedure
  • Pre- and post-operative eye surgery care


What do ophthalmologists do?

Learn the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist to choose an eye care professional.

Ophthalmologists also provide eye care services. They have completed medical school, as well as a one-year internship and at least a three-year residency. This education path allows them to perform surgeries and handle more severe and complex eye conditions.

Patients visiting an ophthalmologist may need:

  • Vision correction exams
  • Prescriptions and fittings for glasses and contacts
  • Diagnosis and treatment of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism
  • Diagnosis and treatment of complex eye conditions (like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, etc.)
  • Treatments for simple and complex eye conditions
  • Prescriptions to treat simple and complex eye conditions
  • Vision therapy services
  • Eye-related surgery (including LASIK, glaucoma laser surgery, etc.)
  • Pre- and post-operative eye surgery care


How do I choose an eye doctor?

Learn the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist to choose an eye care professional.

When choosing an eye care specialist, the right decision depends on what you need from your appointment. Often, these doctors even work together in a single office to serve patients like you fully.

Patients in need of routine eye check-ups have a variety of options and can visit both optometrists and ophthalmologists. If you have more specific or serious eye problems, or you’re considering eye surgery like LASIK, an ophthalmologist can help.

When choosing between options, it’s important to consider:

  • Your unique vision problems
  • Recommendations from friends, family, and doctors
  • Your initial experience with the eye care specialist

When choosing an eye care professional, it’s important to consider the differences between optometrists and ophthalmologists. Learning how each can serve your unique eye needs can help you make the best decision!


Williamson Eye Institute is dedicated to assisting our patients with their vision and eye-related needs throughout the years. To find out more about our services, visit our website or call our office to schedule a personal consultation. You can also find us on Facebook and LinkedIn.