Optometrist vs. General Ophthalmologist vs. Retina Specialist

March 31, 2022


There are different types of eye care professionals, and the one you should see is based on the specific problem that you are experiencing. It’s worth knowing the difference between optometrists, ophthalmologists, and retina specialists to ensure that you are able to get an appointment with the right specialist.

What is an Optometrist?

An optometrist is an eye care professional who gets a Doctor of Optometry degree after completing four years of training. They are trained to examine patients for visual problems and prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Optometrists address issues like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and other vision issues. They also have special training to diagnose and treat a variety of eye diseases and conditions like dry eye or infections of the eye. However, if there is a serious issue with the eyes, such as cataracts or macular degeneration, an optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist for treatment.

What is a General Ophthalmologist?

A general ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who is also a specialist in treating conditions of the eye. They are board-certified and must meet the following requirements in their education:

• Complete four years of college.
• Complete four years of medical school.
• Complete one year of training at an internship.
• Complete a minimum of three years of supervised training at an accredited residency program in ophthalmology.

An ophthalmologist is different from an optometrist and optician due to the level of specialized training they receive to diagnose and treat certain conditions, and their ability to perform surgery. Although they are also able to prescribe glasses and contact lenses to patients, they go medically far beyond what an optometrist can do. Ophthalmologists can also take part in scientific research to find treatments and cures for diseases of the eye.

What is a Retina Specialist?

A retina specialist is an ophthalmologist who has additional training specifically in treating an area at the back of the eye called the “retina”. Retina specialists receive additional training that includes a fellowship for one or two years after a residency in ophthalmology.

Generally, retina specialists focus on diagnosing and treating conditions and illnesses affecting the retina. Their patients are usually referred to them by an ophthalmologist or optometrist after recognizing a problem with the retina. Retina specialists used special equipment to diagnose these conditions and diseases and stay in the know with all the latest treatment techniques that are both surgical and non-surgical.

Schedule an Appointment

If you live in Northern Virginia and are interested in seeing an ophthalmologist or other eyecare professional, contact Anh Nguyen Ophthalmology to schedule an initial consultation today.

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