Ophthalmology is a medical specialty covering all aspects of eye health, while optometry is a limited non-physician health care profession related to correcting vision problems and diagnosing and treating many eye conditions, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. The term "eye doctor" is most often used by the public to refer to an optometrist.
Like any other licensed medical specialist, an ophthalmologist must first obtain a Medical Doctor or Doctor of Osteopathy degree, according to the AAPOS. He then serves an internship in general medicine followed by at least three years in a specialized ophthalmology residency training program. This training includes all aspects of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions, injuries and diseases. Many also pursue sub-specialities. Ophthalmologists perform LASIK, notes the Federal Trade Commission. They also perform other vision-correcting surgeries, as well as cataract surgery, explains the AAPOS. There are over 19,000 practicing ophthalmologists in the United States, as of 2015, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
An optometrist earns a Doctor of Optometry degree but is not a medical doctor, according to the AAPOS. Like ophthalmologists, optometrists are licensed by the state. They perform routine eye exams, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and treat certain eye conditions and diseases. Optometrists are qualified to write prescriptions within the optometry training purview. Optometrists are more common than ophthalmologists, with over 33,000 practicing optometrists in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.