The Cleveland Clinic

Choosing an Eye Doctor

Where do you go when you are having difficulty with your eyesight? Depending on the extent of the problem, your answer may vary. There are several different types of eye doctors and eye specialists you could see, including an ophthalmologist, optometrist, and optician.

What Is an Ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are eye doctors that specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and visual system, and also the prevention of eye disease and injury. They can be either doctors of medicine (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO).

While medical doctors focus on disease-specific diagnosis and treatment, osteopaths concentrate on the loss of structure and function in different parts of the body due to disease, including the eye. An eye doctor who is an osteopath would give treatment based on the assumption that treating the parts of the visual system with the use of medicines, surgery, diet, and other therapies, will therefore treat the underlying eye problem.

An ophthalmologist is an eye doctor who has completed four years of pre-medical undergraduate education, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and three or more years of specialized medical and surgical training in eye care. As a qualified specialist, an ophthalmologist is licensed by a state regulatory board to diagnose, treat, and manage conditions affecting the eye and visual system. An ophthalmologist is qualified to deliver total eye care, meaning vision services, eye examinations, medical and surgical eye care, diagnosis and treatment of disease, and visual complications that are caused by other conditions, like diabetes.