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Optometrist or Ophthalmologist–What’s the Difference?

Dr. VanNurden--Ophthalmologist

What is an optometrist? Is an ophthalmologist only a surgeon? Which one is my eye doctor?

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both eye doctors, but their training differs and what they offer can be very different. This is why Cascadia Eye has the best of both!

Optometrists attend optometry school for four years after completing their undergraduate work. Some, such as our Dr. VanNurden and Dr. Turpin, may even add additional year(s) to get specialized training, such as an optometry teaching degree, or contact lens and cornea specialization. Optometry school focuses on treating diseases of the eye and enhancing the patient’s vision with corrective lenses (contacts or eyeglasses). Optometrists are trained to be experts in both primary eye care and treatment of eye diseases.

Ophthalmologists attend medical school after completing their undergraduate degree. Then after obtaining their general medical training (4 years), they continue on with an internship (1 year) and then residency (an additional 3 years) specifically in treating diseases and performing surgery on the eye and visual system. They too can opt to do an additional year or more in fellowship training, like our Drs. Pereira, Kassem and Epley in sub-specialties such as cornea, plastics and pediatrics.

Even then, after school is where the real skill is gained and where eye doctors can stand out. For example, because our optometrists work so closely with the ophthalmologists in our clinic, they gain excellent training and experience in diagnosing and treating eye diseases they just wouldn’t see in a more primary care environment. Not only diabetes, dry eyes, and glaucoma, but also more uncommon diseases and other chronic conditions.

Likewise, not all of our ophthalmologists are focused on surgery. Some have opted to offer their advanced training in the clinic treating complex medical eye diseases and conditions. This allows our ophthalmologists who do focus on surgery more opportunity to do surgery, which results in more experienced and skilled surgeons for our patients.

So, whether you simply need new glasses, or require serious surgical care, Cascadia Eye has the specialist just for you!

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