Optometrists and Astigmatism
In the United States, both optometrists and ophthalmologists are trained to treat astigmatism. One way to understand their roles in dealing with this common vision problem is to understand the different types of education that these eye doctors receive. Here is a summary:
After graduating from college, perhaps with a degree in math or in a science such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry or physics, someone who wants to be an optometrist then attends four years at a college of optometry to learn how to conduct eye exams, how to diagnose and correct vision problems, and how to diagnose and manage certain eye diseases and disorders.
Optometry schools train students in microbiology, eye anatomy, optics, equipment use, physical properties of eyeglass lenses and contact lenses, clinical problem-solving, dealing with patients, how vision insurance plans work, and managing an eye care practice. They also teach about eye diseases and systemic diseases and offer the opportunity to work with patients in clinics and at vision screenings in the community. After successful completion of optometry school, a student becomes a doctor of optometry (O.D.).
During an eye exam, the optometrist tests different kinds of visual skills, including how well a patient can see up close and at a distance, how well he can perceive colors, and whether he has symptoms of eye conditions such as dry eye syndrome or of eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who specializes in the eyes. Ophthalmology training includes four years of college, usually in a science, plus four years of medical school. Then comes another three or four years of ophthalmology residency.
Ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye exams and to prescribe eyewear and contact lenses, but they are also able to treat eye diseases and perform eye surgery. Since the eye care field is so vast, they usually complete fellowship training to specialize in one or two particular areas, such as cataract surgery, refractive surgery (like LASIK), or pediatric eye diseases and disorders.
Both optometrists and ophthalmologists get additional continuing education training during their careers in order to stay current in the ever-changing eye care arena.
An optometrist would diagnose astigmatism in a patient during a refractive eye exam. He or she would prescribe eyeglass lenses containing prism specifications to correct the astigmatism. Another option is toric contact lenses.
An ophthalmologist could correct astigmatism with eyeglasses or contacts as well. He or she would also have the ability to perform refractive surgery to correct the astigmatism, if the patient were a candidate for such surgery.