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Ophthalmologists vs Optometrists

  1. Jan 7, 2012 #1


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    We had a post earlier regarding possible damage to the poster's eye by a short exposure to a laser. I'd like to clarify the qualifications of "eye doctors" in an attempt to help people get prompt, effective care. Many people see optometrists and consider them "eye doctors". Optometrists are qualified and licensed to permit them to evaluate refractive conditions like near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia (inability to focus at short distances, like when reading). They can prescribe corrective lenses, which are dispensed and fitted by opticians. Optometrists are not licensed to provide medical care for your eyes. That is the job of Ophthalmologists. If you suspect you have injured an eye with a laser, foreign body, etc, get to an Ophthalmologist right away. If you go to see an Optometrist, the Optometrist will have to refer you to an Ophthalmologist, which could be wasting precious time. Your vision is very important.

    I worked as a network administrator and optician for a very large (by Maine standards) Ophthalmological practice. While I was there, we had only one Optometrist on staff, and her specialty was prescribing and fitting contact lenses. All the other doctors were surgeons with eye-related medical specialties. Our doctors held regional seminars periodically at which they taught Optometrists to recognize medical conditions of the eye, so the patient could be referred and treated properly. I learned a lot because I was the one that burned their PowerPoint slides for them.
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  3. Aug 8, 2016 #2
    I'm bumping this because it's good information to remember. I went to see an Optometrist for new contacts last month and they didn't even look at my eyes with the light. They went straight into the letter board with the lens machine. One thing I did opt for was the photo of the back of my eye and nerve. The Optometrist did look at that and said everything was in order.
  4. Aug 8, 2016 #3


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    Well this is something I've always wondered! Last time I went to the Ophthalmologist, I was going to ask him what the difference between the two were, but held my tongue lest it turn out that his occupation was the inferior. :oldsmile:
  5. Aug 9, 2016 #4


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    I went to see an opthalmologist but all I could see was an optometrist.
  6. Aug 10, 2016 #5


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    Opthalmologists treat diseases and medical issues with the eyes with medication and/or surgery as well. I worked at an eye institute a few years ago, and it's quite a specialized field of medicine. If you have or ever have children, get their eyes checked when they are very young because you never know what conditions they may have until it causes problems.
  7. Aug 11, 2016 #6
    I believe that optometrists are trained to detect problems beyond those related to refraction.
  8. Aug 11, 2016 #7


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    The OP's post is a bit outdated, years ago optometrists did little more than prescribe eyeglasses and contacts, and checked for common problems, they now do much more (see the wiki link). You do still need to see an opthamologist for diseases of the eye.

    Now, there is just an "optician", this is just a person that does the fitting and dispensing of the glasses and contacts, they do no diagnosing. That is the person that hands you your glasses when you go to pick them up and makes sure they fit straight, and perhaps can check to see if the prescription is correct if they have the proper machinery.

    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  9. Aug 18, 2016 #8


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    According to the website of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, optometrists do more than diagnose and treat refractive conditions through corrective glasses or lenses. They can also:

    1. examine, diagnose, treat, manage, and prevent diseases and disorders of the visual system
    2. diagnose ocular manifestations of diseases such as diabetes & high blood pressure & complications of the aging process (e.g. cataracts, macular degeneration)
    3. prescribe medication to treat certain eye diseases
    4. provide vision therapy
    5. work with other health care providers
    6. research


    As an aside, in Canada there are only 2 universities that offer an optometry program: the University of Waterloo (in English), and the Universite de Montreal (in French).
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