What is the difference between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist?

What is the difference between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist?

The difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist is not common knowledge but choosing an eye care provider is an important healthcare decision.


An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor specializing in eye and vision care who receives twelve or more years of training and education. Ophthalmologists are licensed to practice medicine and surgery and this advanced training gives them the ability to diagnose and treat a wider degree of conditions than optometrists. Since ophthalmologists are medical doctors, they often can be the first one to recognize signs of hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid disease, tumors, autoimmune disease, and more.

“In the eyes, you actually have an unobstructed view of microcirculation when you’re looking at the blood vessels in the retina.  There is nowhere else in the body that you have this direct view, other than surgically, so it’s important for individuals with issues of circulation, like hypertension and diabetes, to have their eyes examined.  This gives the physician a unique window into the disease process,” said TPMG Ophthalmologist Anthony DeRosa, MD.


Alternatively, an optometrist is not a medical doctor and is not trained in systemic diseases. An optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and provides vision care ranging from vision testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. Optometrists in the United States are licensed to prescribe medications to treat certain eye problems and diseases, and the scope of care is determined by state law.

Other key distinguishing differences include medical versus surgical. An ophthalmologist specializes in comprehensive medical and surgical care of the eyes and vision. An optometrist on the other hand, cannot perform surgery, but can prescribe medications and treat certain eye diseases. States may limit which conditions an optometrist can treat. Additionally, an ophthalmologist may receive fellowship training in a sub-specialty of ophthalmology such as glaucoma, corneal disease, or uveitis.

If you are concerned about your eye health or have been diagnosed with hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid disease, tumors, or an auto-immune disease, make an appointment for an eye exam with an ophthalmologist.


Anthony J. DeRosa, MD

About Dr. Anthony DeRosa

Anthony J. DeRosa, MD, FACS, is a board-certified ophthalmologist at TPMG – Ophthalmology with over 20 years of experience in the treatment and care of conditions of the eye. He is fellowship-trained in Cornea, External Disease, Uveitis, and Refractive Surgery and offers treatment for dry eye syndrome and corneal disease, diagnosis of macular degeneration, and diabetic eye exams.

For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. DeRosa at a TPMG Ophthalmology office in Newport News or Williamsburg, call (757) 223-5321.

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