Although most people know to head to the eye doctor when they have trouble seeing things correctly, many people don't know the differences between the duties of an optometrist and those of an ophthalmologist.
The obvious difference, however, is that an ophthalmologist is a physician who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and visual system and in the prevention of eye disease and injury, according to visionchannel.net.
They provide a full spectrum of care including routine eye exams, diagnosis and medical treatment of eye disorders and diseases, prescriptions for eyeglasses, surgery, and management of eye problems that are caused by systemic illnesses. Ophthalmologists can be medical doctors (M.D.) or doctors of osteopathy (D.O.)."
After undergraduate study at a college or university, ophthalmologists attend four years of medical school to obtain their M.D. or D.O. degree. They then complete one year of an internship and three years of training in ophthalmology in a residency program approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
Upon completion of this, ophthalmologists may enroll in a one- or two-year fellowship program which should offer the opportunity to develop expertise in specific areas, such as corneal diseases; eye trauma; ocular oncology; refractive surgery; retina and vitreous diseases; glaucoma; pediatric eye problems, as well as several others.
Optometrists held about 34,800 jobs in 2008, although that number is actually greater than the number of practicing optometrists because some optometrists hold two or more jobs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "an optometrist may have a private practice, but also work in another practice, in a clinic, or in a vision care center.
According to the American Optometric Association, about two-thirds of practicing optometrists are in private practice. Although many optometrists practice alone, a growing number are in a partnership or group practice."
Employment of optometrists is expected to grow about as fast as the average by nearly 25 percent by 2018, in response to the vision care needs of a growing and aging population. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "as baby boomers age, they will be more likely to visit optometrists and ophthalmologists because of the onset of vision problems in middle age, including those resulting from the extensive use of computers.
The demand for optometric services also will increase because of growth in the oldest age group, with its increased likelihood of cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, and hypertension. Greater recognition of the importance of vision care, rising personal incomes, and growth in employee vision care plans will spur employment growth, as well."
The average annual income of salaried optometrists was $96,320 in 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $70,140 and $125,460, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the American Optometric Association, average annual income for self-employed optometrists was $175,329 in 2007.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun