A friend, a relative, an optometrist or even an internet search might have informed you that you need to visit an ophthalmologist. This can confuse you, especially if you do not know what an ophthalmologist does. You might only think that you need to see an an optometrist or optician. Here's a simple guide to help you understand what an ophthalmologist does:

Where It All Starts

You might experience some eye symptoms like blindness, short- or long-sightedness, blurry or foggy vision, difficulty reading or seeing at night, sensitive eyes when looking at any light, streaks or spots in your sight, etc.

If you notice such symptoms, the specialist you need to visit is an optometrist. The phrase 'eye doctor' is general and can be used to refer to almost any eye specialist. That is why you need to know that the eye doctor you should see if you experience the symptoms mentioned above is an optometrist.

What Does an Optometrist Do?

An optometrist asks you various questions about your general health, your family's medical history, your symptoms and when they started, etc. He or she then examines your eyes with various techniques and tools to find out what could be causing your symptoms. If you are afraid of painful procedures like needles, don't worry; there are no injections or any invasive procedures during eye diagnosis tests. The optometrist might, however, use an eye drop to dilate your pupil; this is not painful.

After the eye examination, your optometrist can arrive at three diagnoses:

  • You have a refractive error (it causes short or long-sightedness)

The optometrist conducts a series of tests where he or she uses different lenses to see which one corrects your refractive error. He or she then prescribes the lens and refers you to an optician who designs your eyeglasses with the prescribed lenses.

  • You have a minor eye condition that he or she can treat

If you have a minor eye problem, the optometrist prescribes some oral medication or eye drops. He or she can also recommend some diet or lifestyle changes.

  • You have a serious eye condition that he or she is not qualified to treat

This is where an ophthalmologist comes in. He or she is an eye doctor with higher qualifications and expertise when compared to an optometrist. An ophthalmologist is also the only eye doctor qualified enough to perform eye surgery. Sometimes and depending on specialisation, he or she may be referred to as a cataract doctor/surgeon or an eye surgeon. You should also know that an ophthalmologist can carry out all the services of an optometrist, but the reverse is not possible.