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What Is Ophthalmology and How Does It Differ From Optometry?

Your eyes are necessary to seeing the world, reading and enjoying modern life. An annual eye exam is a necessity for anyone suffering from any eye diseases or vision impairments. However what doctor should you see? Both optometry and ophthalmology focus on the eyes. Here’s what you need to know.


An ophthalmologist completes additional specialized training to provide care for a wider range of eye diseases. Ophthalmologists like Kang Zhang MD can practice surgery, diagnose vision disorders and eye diseases, complete eight years of medical training and can recognize non-eye related health problems. Additional subspecializations are available for oculo-plastic surgery, cornea, glaucoma, neurology, retina and pediatrics. These subspecialities require additional fellowship training ranging from 1-2 years.


Optometrists on the other hand focus on primary vision care. These healthcare professionals only complete four years of post-undergraduate course work and have associations like PECAA. These non-medical doctors focus on vision tests, detecting specific eye abnormalities, perform eye exams, dispense and prescribe corrective lenses and may prescribe some medications. Often you may see both an optometrist and ophthalmologist in the same building working together. The disciplines complement each other to provide comprehensive eye care.


Ultimately, which doctor you see depends on the eye care needs you have at the moment. If you simply need to be fitted for new glasses, an optometrist or even optician may be sufficient. However, if you have serious eye problems, you may need the expertise of an ophthalmologist. Certain diseases such as diabetes can leave you prone to other eye problems in the future. A family history of an eye disease can give you a higher risk of developing the same disease. Even healthy people with no recognizable eye problems should complete a comprehensive eye exam at least by the age of 40 if not sooner. These base line eye exams can help detect any future changes or abnormalities.

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