Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist,
And Differing Opinions
About Vision Therapy

The phrase “Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist,” gives the impression that these two eye care professionals are at odds, but in reality they have much in common.

Although it can be very confusing for patients to choose between Optometrists vs Ophthalmologist, there are overlaps, as well as, differences between the two that are explored below. Once the patient understands the similarities and differences, the patient will more easily be able to decide between the two.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist, What Is The Difference?
There are two types of doctors that specialize in eye care.
An Optometrist is a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.). They are trained professionals that are licensed to provide eye care services, including:

–the examination and diagnoses of eye diseases
–the diagnoses of conditions that may affect the eyes, such as hypertension and diabetes
–the examination, diagnoses and treatment of visual conditions such as astigmatism, nearsightedness, presbyopia, and farsightedness
–prescription of glasses and contact lenses
–prescription of medications
–removal of foreign bodies

One must complete an undergraduate college education, followed by 4 years of education from a college of Optometry, to become an Optometrist and earn the degree of Doctor of Optometry (O.D.). Additionally, some Optometrists elect to do a residency.

An Ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who specializes in eye surgery and diseases of the eye. They are trained in everything from prescribing corrective lenses to complex eye surgery. This includes training in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and conditions. One must complete 4 years of medical school, 1 year of internship and a minimum of 3 years of residency to become an Ophthalmologist.

An Optometrist is the primary eye care professional. They are generally the best choice for vision-care needs and most day-to-day eye needs and often refer specialists eg Retina, Glaucoma, Cornea, and Cataract Surgeons. Additionally, Optometrists typically offer more eyeglass frame options in stock.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist, Why Yours May Not Provide or Support Vision Therapy

Why Your Optometrist May Not Provide Vision Therapy

As part of their Optometric education, all Optometry students have training and coursework in vision therapy. However, Behavioral Optometrists or Developmental Optometrists receive additional training beyond the basic requirement at colleges of Optometry. Additionally, vision therapy requires more comprehensive testing and equipment than the average eye exam.

Optometrists are often prevented from entering the field of vision therapy due to the costs of establishing a clinic. Also, even though Optometrists are introduced to basic vision therapy concepts during their education, they need post-graduate, vision therapy training to provide high levels of care.

Then the lack of public awareness makes many Optometrists hesitate to offer vision therapy. As the successes of vision therapy become more widely known, the number of clinics for vision therapy is expected to rise.

Primary care Optometrists and Behavioral (or developmental) Optometrists have the same goal of providing patients with comprehensive eye care.

Behavioral Optometrists specialize in vision therapy and testing a very specific number of visual conditions that are not offered by most general care Ophthalmologists or Optometrists.

Why Your Ophthalmologist May Not Support Vision Therapy

There are a number of Ophthalmologists who don’t agree with vision therapy. Vision Therapy is not part of the Ophthalmologist’s discipline. It is not a part of their coursework, so many of them don’t have any training in vision therapy. However, there are some Ophthalmologists who support vision therapy. This is evident in many joint studies conducted by Ophthalmologists and Behavioral Optometrists, including the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial conducted by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Behavioral (or developmental) Optometrists often refer patients to Ophthalmologists for corrective surgery or conditions not treated by Optometrists.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist, Your Eye Doctor and Vision Therapy

This post explored the commonalities and differences between these eye doctors.

So, although it can be confusing to understand the difference between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist, it should be easier to differentiate them now. Once you understand the difference, it’s easy to know which is best and for what. There is considerable overlap, but also some striking differences, as noted above.

Either your Ophthalmologist or Optometrist may refer you to a Behavioral Optometrist for vision therapy.

Some doctors in each profession support vision therapy as an effective means of treating specific vision problems.

In the end, “Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist” matters little in deciding whether vision therapy is for you.

The public needs to be aware that ophthalmologists are not the ultimate authorities in all areas of visual health. Ophthalmologists are wonderful surgeons and excellent authorities about eye disease, but as a rule they’re under-informed about subject areas such as, visual processing, convergence, accommodation and vision therapy. To learn more check out these FAQs: Ophthalmologists are not the ultimate authorities in all areas of visual health

Get A Functional Vision Evaluation To Learn If Vision Therapy Is Right For You

To determine if a vision problem is present, it is necessary to have a functional vision evaluation.

Some people ask if everyone that has this comprehensive evaluation gets told that they need vision therapy. The answer is “no”. Behavioral Optometrists only provide you with the treatment you need, and we will gladly refer you to a specialists if other treatment is required.

In the general population, about 25% have issues with their vision that are severe enough to require vision therapy. People who actually request a comprehensive behavioral evaluation are usually either referred by an eye care professional or realize they have many symptoms of issues that can be addressed by vision therapy.

So, schedule a Functional Vision Evaluation today and feel assured that the Behavioral Optometrists will only recommend vision therapy if it can help you.

Please note: In-office therapy under the direction of a behavioral optometrist using prisms, filters and lenses, as used with our patients, is far more effective than home-based therapy.