What’s The Difference Between an Ophthalmologist and Optometrist

Ophthalmologists and optometrists can have similar roles, but there is still quite a difference between the two titles in terms of training and qualifications. If you need more extensive eye health care and potentially eye surgery, you will need to see an ophthalmologist. However, an optometrist may be suitable as your first point of call for eye care, depending on your reasons for seeking eye care.

At Valley Eye Specialists, we are a team of highly trained ophthalmologists, who can perform a variety of eye tests, treatments and operations. Read on to learn more about the difference between the two professions, or contact us now if you think you need to book a consultation with one of our ophthalmologists in Brisbane. You will need a referral letter from your optometrist, GP or other medical practitioner to see an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmologist vs Optometrist: A simple definition of each profession in Australia

Essentially, both professions focus on the eyes, but an ophthalmologist is considered an eye doctor in Australia, while an optometrist (while still university-qualified and recognised by the Optometry Board of Australia) is not.

An eye doctor, or ophthalmologist, specialises in eye care and can perform surgical procedures on the eye, while an optometrist focuses on vision disorders, can prescribe glasses or contact lenses, and can diagnose eye health conditions or notice signs of health disorders that can be seen in the eyes (such as diabetes).

Both medical professionals can diagnose eye health conditions, but an ophthalmologist can also perform procedures to treat these eye conditions.

  • An ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specialises in the medical and surgical care of the eyes. They are qualified to diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgeries, prescribe medications, and provide comprehensive eye care, as well as prescribe glasses and contact lenses. They have a deep knowledge of the visual system and the management of a variety of eye conditions.
  • An optometrist: An optometrist is a health professional who must be registered with the Optometry Board of Australia. They are qualified to diagnose eye diseases and disorders, pick up on signs of other health conditions that can be shown in the eyes, assess the eyes for vision disorders, treat eye coordination and focusing disorders, and prescribe glasses, contact lenses or other specialised optical aids.

When should you see an ophthalmologist?

An optometrist can be suitable for a general eye health check-up, or for a vision test to see if you need to wear glasses or contact lenses. If you have further concerns about your eye health and want to treat or manage eye conditions (possibly with surgery), you will need to see an ophthalmologist.

An ophthalmologist can create an eye surgery plan and decide on the most appropriate approach to treating your particular eye condition. They can provide you with advice on how to manage your eye condition, perform your eye surgery, and advise you on how to care for your eyes after a surgical procedure.

What to expect when seeing an ophthalmologist

Ophthalmologists can use a wide range of treatment modalities to address a variety of eye conditions. This may include prescribing medications, such as eye drops or oral medications, performing laser procedures or other surgical procedures, and prescribing glasses or contact lenses. Ophthalmologists are skilled in using specialised technology and techniques.

When you see an ophthalmologist, you will have a thorough eye health assessment. This can involve diagnostic imaging and the use of special eye drops. You’ll need a referral letter from your optometrist, GP, or another medical practitioner.

You will need to discuss your past medical history, allergies you have and any regular medications you may take. You should bring a list of medications or drops that you regularly take or use, results of any tests, x-rays or scans, and your glasses or contact lenses along to your appointment.

Diagnostic imaging can include retinal imaging, an ultrasound scan, a visual field test, and more. If you need special eye drops during the appointment, your vision will become blurry, and your eyes will be more sensitive to light than usual. Since these effects can last for up to two hours, you won’t be able to drive after your appointment, so it is a good idea to organise for someone to pick you up afterwards.

Ophthalmologists sometimes collaborate with other medical specialists when eye conditions are related to other health conditions, such as diabetes. If another medical specialist will need to be consulted, this will be discussed in detail during your appointment.

Valley Eye Specialists: Ophthalmologists in Brisbane

If you’re located in Brisbane and need to see an ophthalmologist, Valley Eye Specialists have an experienced team that can provide routine and urgent care for a variety of eye conditions.

We also incorporate the Queensland Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Surgeons, for the diagnosis and management of eye conditions from birth, paediatric strabismus and adult strabismus.

Contact us to learn more, or organise a referral to see us!