What is the difference?
In the field of eye care there is widespread confusion on the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist. While both professions provide advanced eye care, there is a difference in training which defines what each specialty can treat. Dr. Will Christian is a board certified ophthalmologist serving the Santa Monica area. He is often asked to clarify the difference and has provided a brief overview on the elements that define each specialty.
Medical eye doctor
The biggest difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist is that an ophthalmologist is a licensed medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye. He or she is licensed to perform surgery and has trained on the same path as all medical doctors, choosing to specialize in diseases and treatment of the eye.
After receiving the required college degree, ophthalmologists have completed at least eight years of additional medical training including a four year residency program in a hospital. While completing their residency they gain experience treating a wide range of conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration as well as a wide range of vision problems such as nearsightedness.
Ophthalmologists are licensed and trained to treat all eye conditions from the most delicate LASIK eye surgery through prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses after a routine eye exam. Because of their advanced training family physicians and optometrists refer patients with serious eye disorders to ophthalmologists.
An optometrist is not a medical doctor. Optometrists complete an intensive post-graduate program after completion of the required college degree which qualifies them to provide primary vision care. An optometrist is licensed to offer services such as testing, prescribing corrective lenses and diagnosing some eye abnormalities such as glaucoma. Upon completing their postgraduate program they receive a doctor of optometry (OD) degree.
The four year program includes studies in ocular (eye) anatomy, general anatomy, vision science as well as optics. The four year program includes two years of clinical training in vision care. Obtaining an OD certification also requires an internship in a hospital or a specialized eye clinic.
Ophthalmologists are licensed medical doctors and can participate in further certification by the American Board of Ophthalmologists (ABO) if they choose to augment their educational expertise. Dr. Christian is certified by the ABO, providing premium eye care as a top Santa Monica eye doctor.
He is a perfectionist translating his love of restoring vision and eye health to his many grateful patients who have achieved a greater quality of life through clearer vision.
He is hopeful that understanding the differences in these two eye care specialties will provide his patients with information that will help them when making decisions about eye care for themselves and their family.