Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist

Posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 by Dr. Thomas Marvelli

One of the most important health decisions you have to make in life is choosing an eye doctor. This is the person you will be trusting to help you maintain a lifetime of good vision and safeguard your precious sense of sight.  When looking for LASIK doctors in Fort Worth, it’s important to get the right specialist and the first step in making the decision is to understand the two major types of eye doctors: ophthalmologists and opticians.


An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor with a specialty in eye and vision care. For one to qualify as an ophthalmologist he or she must acquire an M.D. or a D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) after completion of a college degree. After completing 4 years in medical school and a year of internship in general medicine, ophthalmologists spend a minimum of about 3 years in a hospital based residency or university specializing in ophthalmology. It is during such residency that the eye doctor receives specialized training in all aspects of eye care including diagnosis, prevention, and medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions.

Ophthalmologists receive training to provide the full spectrum of eye care, from prescribing contact lenses and glasses to performing delicate and complex eye surgery. They may also be involved in research about eye treatments and diseases. Some even go ahead to obtain additional fellowship training in subspecialty areas of ophthalmology such as cornea, retina, pediatrics, glaucoma, oculoplastics, uveitis, pathology, neuro-opthamology or refractive surgery.

There are no federal laws or regulations regarding the scope and practice or training of ophthalmologists. Individual states have their own laws regarding such practice. There are also state societies in every state not to mention national ophthalmological professional organizations.

Ophthalmologists are often more aware of the different diseases that may affect the eye and how different findings noted during an eye exam may indicate disease elsewhere in the body. They also understand how medications prescribed by other doctors may cause unintentional side effects to the eye and how ocular medications may affect the rest of the body or interfere with other health conditions. Ideally, when looking for a cataract surgeon, you will need to look for a competent ophthalmologist such as Dr. Marvelli.


An optometrist is a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.). To qualify as an optometrist, one must complete a pre-professional undergraduate college education followed by four years of professional education in a college of optometry. Optometric schools equip students with education primarily about the eyes and not so much regarding the rest of the body and systemic disease processes.

Some optometrists do further postgraduate residency in a subspecialty of optometry such as primary eye care, pediatric optometry, sports vision, geriatric optometry, vision therapy and family eye care. They are licensed by individual states to provide primary eye care services, including diagnosis of eye diseases and eye examinations. With a few exceptions, optometrists are not trained or licensed to perform eye surgery. They may participate in your pre- and post-operative care if you have eye surgery performed by an ophthalmologist.

Choosing an eye specialist is crucial for your health and vision. Contact Dr. Thomas Marvelli for an appointment today!

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