Nate from Denver wants to know whether he can see an optometrist instead of an ophthalmologist for his yearly eye exam.

In this particular episode of Ask an Eye Doc, you will learn:

  • The difference between the two eye doctors: OD vs MD
  • What training optometrists have
  • When you need to see an ophthalmologist instead of an optometrist
If you find this episode to be helpful, please leave a 5-star review on iTunes at or you can help support the show by going to
If you have another question about optometrists or any other eye-related question, go to to be featured on Ask an Eye Doc!

For you readers out there, here’s the answer in written form:

Nate from Denver, CO asks:

“I’ve been seeing an ophthalmologist for years, because I have a family history of eye disease, including glaucoma and macular degeneration. Can I see an optometrist for my yearly eye exam, or do I need to keep seeing an ophthalmologist?”

The resounding answer is YES!


Optometrists are eye doctors who have completed a four-year doctoral program after a bachelor’s degree. In optometry school, we learn the basics, like how to determine a glasses prescription, but most of our training includes learning about eye disease.

OD’s (doctor’s of optometry) are very well equipped to evaluate, diagnose and treat eye disease, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic eye disease, dry eye disease, eye infections, etc. We can prescribe medications and other treatments that are effective for managing those conditions.

We can also perform minor surgeries, such as removing small pieces of metal from the eye (which happens more frequently than you would think). In fact, I have found great satisfaction with foreign body removal, since it alleviates a lot of pain for the patient.

In some states, optometrists can also inject medications into the eye and perform certain laser procedures for specific eye conditions.

One optometrists cannot do is major eye surgery. When a patient has been seeing me for a certain eye condition and it gets to the point where surgical intervention is required, I make the appropriate referral to an ophthalmologist.


Ophthalmologists are eye doctors who went to four years of medical school prior to completing a 2-3 year residency specializing in the eye. They may continue on to a another 2-3 year fellowship if they want to really become specialized to a specific part of the eye.

Not all ophthalmologists specialize in the same area, so the ophthalmologist I select for my patient depends on the eye condition he or she has.

Now you know!

In short, Nate, YES you can see an optometrist for your yearly eye exam, and he or she can evaluate, diagnose and treat most eye conditions you might have. And if needed, he or she will make the appropriate referral to an ophthalmologist if specialized intervention is needed.



If you found this episode to be helpful, be sure to leave a 5-star review on iTunes by going to or you can support the show at
If you have another question about optometrists or any other eye-related question, go to to be featured on Ask an Eye Doc.
AAED 2: Can I see an optometrist instead of an ophthalmologist if I have glaucoma and macular degeneration in my family?
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