When it's time to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor, it's important to know which type of eye doctor you need to see.

Similar to how we seek different healthcare experts for various health issues, different eye care needs may require the expertise of different professionals and specialists in the field. Each eye care professional plays a crucial role in maintaining your eye health, so it's essential to connect with the right specialist at the right time to address your specific needs. Understanding the services provided by each eye care professional, including whether they align with your vision health needs, is vital. Additionally, consider the importance of optometry school in training these professionals to provide quality care.


Ophthalmologists are highly trained physicians who specialize in the treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of eye diseases. They are fully qualified medical doctors (O.D.'s or M.D.'s) who have completed at least eight years of medical training, including a college degree and medical school. With their extensive education, ophthalmologists are equipped to address a wide range of eye problems and conditions. Some may choose to pursue additional training to specialize in specific areas such as glaucoma, retina, cornea, pediatrics, neurology, and plastic surgery. Whether it's conducting thorough an eye exam or providing advanced medical and surgical care, ophthalmologists are dedicated to ensuring optimal eye health for their patients.


Medical doctors of optometry offer a comprehensive array of primary eye care services. They perform vision examinations for glasses and contact lenses, diagnose and treat ocular diseases, and even provide eye surgery when necessary. To become a medical doctor of optometry, individuals must complete a 4-year college degree, followed by a 4-year post-graduate program at an optometry school.


Patients who experience vision problems and require corrective lenses, such as glasses or contact lenses, often seek assistance from opticians. Opticians are skilled technicians who specialize in fitting eyeglass lenses and frames, as well as designing and verifying contact lenses for patients. While opticians collaborate with ophthalmologists or optometrists to discuss a patient's specific needs or review a prescription, they do not perform testing, diagnose conditions, or prescribe medications.

Choosing An Eye Doctor

When scheduling an eye appointment, patients are faced with the choice of visiting either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. Both of these eye care professionals are qualified to conduct comprehensive eye exams, which are crucial for detecting various eye problems and diseases. Individuals with a history of good eyesight have more flexibility in selecting their eye care provider.

However, if you are currently experiencing a medical eye problem such as glaucoma, retinal diseases or problems, macular degeneration, or cataracts, it is advisable to consult with a highly trained ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists possess specialized knowledge and expertise in monitoring and treating these specific conditions, offering a wider range of treatment options.

Eye exams and the detection and management of eye disease play a vital role in the services provided by both optometrists and ophthalmologists.

The good news is that if this specialized care becomes a necessity for you, your current optometrist can often help refer you to a specialist that you’ll be comfortable working with. Depending on whether you’d like to continue working with your main eye care doctor or not, this referral may become permanent or could lead to a co-management treatment and monitoring system between your two eye doctors.

Whether you choose to visit with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist for your next appointment, it’s important that you continue to schedule annual visits with your eye doctor (unless it's been recommended to schedule visits more frequently, in which case this advice takes priority over normal vision care guidelines). Only by maintaining these regular care visits will you be able to ensure that your eyes receive the monitoring, preventative treatment and – in some cases – the diagnosis they need to continue to see as clearly as possible.

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