Ophthalmologist versus Optometrist: Mystery solved!

Welcome and thanks for being a part of EYEmergencyMD’s blog!  The goal of our blog is to keep you well informed on any and all issues important to the health of your eyes and expose you to the world of teleophthalmology which seeks to give you improved access to maintaining healthy vision for life.  What better way to begin than by identifying those that help care for your eyes.  I know many of you have wondered what exactly is the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist, so let’s dig in!

Optometrists (OD) are doctors.  They obtain a four year college degree and then go on to do four more years of optometry school.  Here, optometrists become well versed in ocular anatomy, ocular physiology and pathophysiology, refraction, optics, and contact lens fitting.  Some optometrists go on to pursue a one year residency in an area in which they have a special interest (i.e. pediatrics, low vision, visual rehabilitation, or geriatrics).  If you are keeping count, that is 8-9 total years of education. Optometrists are invaluable in difficult refraction cases and those hard to fit with contact lenses.  They are also extraordinarily gifted in assisting low vision patients in maximizing their useful sight.  They are key players on the eye care team.

Ophthalmologists (MD, DO) are physicians.  They obtain a for year college degree and then go on to compete four years of medical school (yes, just like your family doctor or surgeon).  This is where we learn all about the entire body, things that can go wrong in each system, and how these things can be treated.  It is not until we obtain this extensive training that we are then able to choose our area of expertise.  Those medical school attendees who wish to pursue ophthalmology go through a rigorous and competitive match process where only 75% of those who apply will be successful at securing a training spot.  The successful candidate will then complete one year of internship in general medicine or surgery (we must understand the body and not just the eye) before completing three years of ophthalmology specific training.  This training will hone in on total medical and surgical eye care for all disease processes.  Once these four additional years are complete, many ophthalmologists go on to pursue even more specialized training, spending 1-2 years in cornea/refractive, glaucoma, retina, pediatrics, uveitis, oculoplastics/orbit, or neuro-ophthalmology.  If you are keeping count, that is 12-14 years of training just to take care of your eyes!

Optometrists and ophthalmologists sometimes work together in brick and mortar practices to provide you with the full spectrum of our respective training.  These two specialties complement one another quite well in the environment of comprehensive eye care.  There is no “eye” in team (pun intended)!

At EYEmergencyMD, we have adopted an ophthalmologists only model.  Why?  Because our mission is to be your readily accessible 24/7/365 eye care provider of choice whenever you have a problem affecting your eyes.  We do not offer eye glass or contact lens prescriptions.  Only timely, sound medical advice about your eyes just when you need it the most.  With 12-14 years of training and an average of an additional 7-10 years practice experience, our board certified ophthalmologists bring a wealth of knowledge to you whenever you need it, wherever you may be.  Your vision is precious, so we make easy access to top notch care our priority.  We connect you with only the best and most thoroughly trained eye physicians so that you can enjoy a lifetime of sunrises and sunsets.