Optometrist or ophthalmologist – who should you choose?

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are specialists in eye health. However, they each specialize in a slightly different area. The answer to the question of who is an optometrist and who is an ophthalmologist comes from understanding the difference between these professions.

Ophthalmologist who is it?

An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal or anterior segment disorders (keratitis, conjunctivitis, etc.). He is licensed to prescribe medications and perform surgical procedures.

He has complete knowledge of the selection of optical correction of refractive defects. The competence of ophthalmologists is extended to that of optometrists by the medical education they receive during many years of medical studies. The first written reference to ophthalmic surgery (removal of a lacrimal sac abscess) comes from the Code of Hammurabi, written around 1772 BC.

Who is an optometrist?

An optometrist is a health care professional focused on solving vision problems. Unlike an eye doctor, an optometrist can only examine your eyesight. He or she will not diagnose a disease, remove a foreign body from the eye, or perform surgery on the eyeball.

The optometrist is responsible for proper contact lens selection, as well as educating the patient on visual hygiene. In addition, the optometrist conducts eye exercises with the patient. Sometimes he or she focuses, for example, on fitting individual contact lenses or selecting optical aids for patients with poor vision. Any abnormalities in the optics of the eyes, poorly coordinated eye movements, restricted Optometrist tasks accommodations are the primary abnormalities that an optometrist deals with.


The optometrist’s primary tasks include:

  • examining the condition of the visual system in terms of visual impairment,
  • fitting proper optical glasses,
  • writing a prescription for eyeglasses.

Ophthalmologist when is it necessary?

Many complaints related to the visual system are primarily caused by an uncorrected or incorrectly corrected refractive error. A consultation with an optometrist should rule out this possibility. If it turns out that the optometrist’s help is insufficient and the use of visual aids does not bring the desired relief, a visit to the ophthalmologist is necessary. You should also see an ophthalmologist if: persistent eye pain, conjunctivitis, eye injury, disturbing changes around the eyes and worse vision despite wearing lenses or glasses.

When should I see an optometrist?

You should visit the optometrist if you have to make an extra effort to see something clearly, such as squinting or waiting for the image to come into focus. Other warning signs include eye pain, headaches, blurred vision, eye strain, and strabismus. It is also a good idea to see a professional optometrist if you simply want to choose the right eyeglasses or contact lenses.

The optometrist’s instruments:

  • Text/optometric boards – are used to test for visual impairment. They allow you to evaluate your eyesight defect, the ability of the eye to adapt, and the possibility of correction.
  • Phoropter – allows you to choose the right glasses for patients with visual impairments.
    Autorefractometer – is a device, which performs computer eye examination. It determines your vision acuity by measuring the curvature of the cornea and the lens.
  • Tonometer – a device that measures pressure, such as intraocular pressure.
  • Biomicroscope – is an instrument used for observation of the front part of the eye, and with additional lenses – also for observation of the back part of the eye.
  • Ophthalmometer – used to measure the curvature of the anterior surface of the cornea, and in particular to measure the degree and axis of astigmatism.

In the UK, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, the optometrist is the first point of contact and will refer the patient to an ophthalmologist if necessary. To become an optometrist, a person must have a Masters degree in optometry or a postgraduate diploma in optometry. There are 1,500 optometrists working in Poland.