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Do You Need an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?

A female doctor assessing another woman with the eye trial frame

Our eyes are sensitive and when they're harmed or your vision needs help, you don't want to delay seeing a professional. But how do you know if you need to see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist? When you're looking into eye care, it can be confusing trying to pick between the two. What's the difference?

We're here to offer some help. Keep reading to learn all about these two types of vision professionals and if you need an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

What Is an Optometrist?

Optometrists are the basic "eye doctors." Consider them as the primary care doctor for your eyes. They complete a doctoral program and years of specialized training to get a general scope of eye care.

These are the eye doctors that you'll find more commonly. There's at least one at every eye car practice or clinic.

When Do I Need One?

Optometrists serve several purposes, but the primary one is restoring vision with glasses or contact lenses. 74% of Canadians are in need of correction!

Optometrists can also give general eye care tips, prescribe certain eye medications, and give routine eye check-ups. They also perform post-surgical eye care.

This means that if you're looking for your yearly vision check-in, a prescription for glasses or contacts, or help with a small eye issue, you're going to see an optometrist. If your condition is too severe, they may end up referring you to an ophthalmologist.

What Is an Ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are a bit different, and fewer people will ever interact with one. If an optometrist is a general practitioner, consider an ophthalmologist someone who specializes in eye and vision care. They take several years after their doctorates to learn how to take care of severe eye conditions and injuries. They learn how to diagnose and treat serious diseases, and they can perform surgeries.

When Do I Need One?

If you find yourself with a serious eye injury, have an eye disease, or require complicated eye surgery you should book an appointment with an ophthalmologist. They'll also help with post-surgical rehabilitation.

All of this said, ophthalmologists are as qualified as optometrists when it comes to routine eye care. They are able to diagnose conditions, write prescriptions for lenses or medications, and do anything else that an optometrist can do.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist: Which Are You Looking For?

For standard vision issues and routine eye exams, an optometrist is your most accessible choice. When you have something more complicated, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist (or you can see one on your own). Visit our directory to find the right eye doctor for you.


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