Ophthalmologist vs Optometrist redirects here.
The main difference between an optometrist and an ophtalmologist (often mis-spelled opthamologist) is that an optometrist is not a physician while an ophthalmologist is a qualified medical physician DOs or MDs.
Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine concerned with the diseases and surgery of the visual pathways, including the eye, brain, and areas surrounding the eye, such as the lacrimal system and eyelids.
Scope of Practice
Optometrists are primary health care professionals trained in primary eye care and disease treatment. They diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.
They can also be involved in scientific research into causes and cures for eye disease and vision problems.
On the other hand, ophthalmologists are physicians, trained in eye surgery and advanced eye disease treatment. They specialize in eye and vision care, and are trained to provide the full spectrum of eye care, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to complex and delicate eye surgery. They can also be involved in scientific research into causes and cures for eye disease and vision problems. An ophthalmologist is said to be an eye physician.
The differences between the training of optometrists and of ophthalmologists prepare them for their unique positions within the sphere of patient care.
After high school, an optometrist has four years of college, followed by another four years in an optometry college. Many optometrists then choose to complete one year residency programs and or fellowships in areas such as Pediatrics, Vision Therapy, Contact Lens, Primary Care, Advanced Care, or Low Vision Rehabilitation. In total, an optometrist receives a minimum of eight years of education after high school, followed by continuing education required yearly to maintain his license. They receive a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree.
On the other hand, an ophthalmologist has four years of college, followed by another four years of medical school. After that, they receive one or more years of general medical or surgical training, and then they have to join a hospital-based eye residency program of duration three or more years. This is often followed by one or more years of subspecialty fellowship. In total, an ophthalmologist receives a minimum of 12 years of education beyond high school. They receive a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.
Beyond the study of correction of refractive errors, optometrists are qualified to treat patients with a variety of eye infections, disorders, and diseases. In contrast, ophthalmologists have a full medical education, followed by extensive clinical and surgical training in ophthalmology.
The term optometrists was coined by Landolt in 1886, referring to the "fitting of glasses". Prior to this, there was a distinction between "dispensing" and "refracting" opticians in the 19th century. The latter were later called optometrists. Apparently the first schools of optometry were established in 1850-1900 (presumably in USA).
Eye Care has been there since time immemorial and the exact timeline for when ophthalmology came into being cannot be said. Since the fifth century BC scientists in India have been doing simple eye treatments or surgery, records say.
Prescribing Medication and Performing Surgery
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can prescribe certain medication for eye health and perform surgeries. However, depending upon state and local regulations, Ophthalmologists can usually prescribe a broader range of drugs/therapies and can perform more complex surgeries.
Optometrists are often referred to as a "primary eye-care provider". Optometrists are not physicians; they may refer a patient to surgeons for treatments beyond the scope of their legal practice whenever needed. Ophthalmologists are physicians.
Point of care
Optometrists are considered primary eye care professionals while Ophthalmologists are secondary level care providers for eyes.