Do Optometrists Have a Medical Degree?

Many people confuse the responsibilities of an optometrist with those of an ophthalmologist. Learn what each profession is qualified to do and when it's best to see each one.

Do Optometrists Have a Medical Degree?

Many people are confused about the responsibilities of an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. An optometrist is a health professional who provides primary eye care, including eye tests and corrections, diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. They have a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after completing three or more years in college and four years in optometry school. An optometrist is not a medical doctor.

To become an optometrist in the United States, a candidate must normally earn a four-year undergraduate degree in science and then attend an accredited optometry school or college and earn a four-year doctorate in OD. Some optometrists also choose to complete a residency or an advanced degree in a specific area of practice. To better understand what situations each of the two eye doctors requires, it's best to learn what each profession is qualified to do. An ophthalmologist has a Doctor (M. D.) degree while an optometrist has a Doctor of Optometry (O.

D.) degree. Both professions are an integral part of eye care, but they perform different roles depending on the specialties needed. If you have any common eye problems such as blurred vision, digital eye strain, headaches, squinting, or dry eye, start with an optometrist. An ophthalmologist is qualified to help you with minor eye health problems and may even prescribe corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, ophthalmologists work with more serious eye health problems such as eye pain and nausea which could be signs of glaucoma.

Other pressing eye problems which require an ophthalmologist include eye injuries, high blood pressure, loss of peripheral vision, and red eyes. If any member of your family has an eye disease, an ophthalmologist is the best option as they may be pre-exposed to this condition. If you're wondering “Do I need an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?” know that an ophthalmologist can treat serious eye symptoms caused by your condition. They can also refer you to a specialist for further treatment. Another question to ask yourself when wondering “Do I need an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?” is if you have any eye coordination problems that may require the use of visual therapy. In vision therapy, the eye doctor guides you through a variety of visual challenges to help you with crossed eyes, double vision, and lazy eye among other conditions.

Vision therapy is customized for each patient to address their eye problems. The eye doctor focuses on helping you meet your vision goals, alleviating visual discomfort, and modifying the way you interpret images. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can help with vision therapy. Without knowing the exact eye condition it's hard to say if eye surgery will be necessary. However if your symptoms are severe enough you may need to see an ophthalmologist who may recommend surgery as an option. One of the reasons you may need surgery is if you have cataracts.

As a doctor an ophthalmologist can legally diagnose you with cataracts and other eye conditions and perform the necessary operations. Another surgery they can do is LASIK. An optometrist cannot perform any surgery but can help you before or after the procedure under the supervision of an ophthalmologist. They can also provide professional counseling about eye care and vision outside and after surgery. If you need eye drops or other medications to treat a fundamental eye health problem such as dry eye an optometrist can help.

However if you need a prescription medication to treat a serious eye health problem such as glaucoma you'll need to see an ophthalmologist depending on the pharmaceutical grade of the medication an optometrist may refer you to an ophthalmologist. Optometrists can't prescribe medication for life-threatening eye health conditions but they can help you understand your options and point you in the right direction. An optometrist can solve most of your eye health problems but in some cases you'll need the expertise of an ophthalmologist. By identifying why you need to schedule an eye appointment you can make sure you see the right doctor. If ever keep wondering “Do I need an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?” keep this quick guide handy: If you have any common symptoms such as blurred vision or digital eyestrain start with an optometrist; if any member of your family has an eye disease see an ophthalmologist; if you have any coordination problems that require visual therapy both professions can help; if your symptoms are severe enough for surgery see an ophthalmologist; if you need prescription medication for serious conditions see either one depending on the pharmaceutical grade; if you need professional counseling about vision outside or after surgery see either one; if you need annual comprehensive exams see either one; if your symptoms don't respond to treatment see either one. Has your annual comprehensive exam been done? Schedule an appointment with an independent optometry doctor at your local For Eyes store.

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