An optometrist is a health-care professional who provides vision care, such as sight testing and treatment and management of vision changes, whereas an ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Many ophthalmologists take part in scientific research on the causes and cures of eye diseases and vision disorders, whereas optometrists do not.
Optometrists focus on regular vision care, as well as prescribing contacts and eyeglasses. They perform eye exams, provide vision therapy, and prescribe medication for some eye conditions. Optometrists treat conditions such as farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism. They diagnose eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, conjunctivitis and diabetic retinopathy. They also take part in pre-operative and post-operative care for people needing surgery.
Ophthalmologists perform eye exams and medical eye care for conditions such as chemical burns, glaucoma and iritis. They perform surgeries to correct crossed eyes and other problems. They perform diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions associated with diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. They also perform plastic surgery for smoothing wrinkles and drooping eyelids.
According to WebMD, ophthalmologists are physicians who attended medical school, had a one-year internship and residency of three years or more. Optometrists are not physicians, but are medical professionals who have a degree in optometry.