Medical Specialists Who Diagnose & Treat the Eyes

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  • 0:00 The Eye-Doctor
  • 0:29 Ophthalmologists
  • 2:38 Optometrist
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

What is an eye doctor? Is there more than one? What's the difference between them? This lesson defines an ophthalmologist and optometrist and discusses their differences and similarities.

The Eye Doctor

Seeing is believing, or so the saying goes. That means if you've got poor vision, you might have some skewed beliefs as to what you're actually seeing in front of you. Thus, if you have a problem with your vision, whom do you go see? An eye doctor, of course. But which one?

There are two main professions that deal with helping people see better. They are the ophthalmologist and optometrist. We'll define them and discuss their roles in society in this lesson.


Usually, when someone says 'eye doctor,' they are referring to an ophthalmologist, a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating injured and diseased eyes, as well as problems with vision. This word comes from 'ophthalm-,' which means 'eye,' and '-ologist,' which refers to a specialist in some scientific field of study.

Before I discuss the gist of what ophthalmologists do, I have to divert your attention to something, just in case you need to spell this word on a test or in a spelling bee contest. Note the silent 'h' in op'h'thalmologist. This is commonly missed on written exams. One silly way to help remember what ophthalmologists do (and the silent 'h' in the term) is to think about the fact that ophthalmologists treat the 'h'i, which rhymes with eye.

Another commonly confused point as a result of this silent 'h' is spelling the entire word with an 'o', instead of an 'a,' as in ophth'o'lmologist. This is a potential mistake because 'opto-' means 'eye,' as well, as in optometrist, the word defined and discussed in the next section.

Anyways, ophthalmologists are the 'real' eye doctors, if you will. They are medical doctors who go through highly extensive and specialized training to diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform surgical procedures on the eye, as well as correct vision problems with contact lenses or eyeglasses. Some ophthalmologists go on to become subspecialists meaning, they diagnose and treat very specific problems and become particular experts in those areas. This includes glaucoma specialists, pediatric specialists, and specialists of the retina or cornea.

In order to become an ophthalmologist in the U.S., a person usually completes four years of college, then about another eight years of medical education and residency, and an additional one to two years of training after that if they want to become a subspecialist. So yeah, you'll like, be 30 or older by the time you become an ophthalmologist, assuming you went to college at 18 and studied real hard for over a decade of your life.


Unlike an ophthalmologist, and optometrist usually does not undergo such extensive training. Instead, an optometrist is a person with a doctor of optometry (OD) degree, one who provides primary vision care such as the diagnosis and treatment of changes in vision. This word comes from 'opto-,' which means 'eye' or 'vision,' and '-metrist,' one who measures.

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