Optometrist or Opthamologist for Pediatric Eye Exam - Which One Is the Best?

Updated on October 19, 2010
K.C. asks from San Diego, CA
12 answers

Greetings Mama's.

My 4 year old has had an eye exam in the last month. It was at a pediatric optometrist who, in my view, should not be working with *little* kids. He was abrasive, hostile and he even yelled "LOOK RIGHT" at my son when my son didn't "look right" the first he said to do so. The visual acuity pics seemed advanced too, for a 4 year old. I don't fully trust the diagnosis/prescription but I do know that my son needs glasses. He also has very mild strabismus and maybe even very mild amblyopia.

I want to have him checked again time for accuracy and to ensure that he is diagnosed properly. Because of the 'strabismus' I am considering an opthamologist, albeit, it is very mild - but it is there. But I am having difficulty choosing between the two.

I know the main difference between and optometrist and opthamologist is an opthamologist does surgery. If there was no strabismus, this would be easy. Since it is mild, do you think I should still take him to an opthamologist instead of an optometrist?

Many thanks.

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answers from Dallas on

My son failed a vision test at school and I took him to an optometrist. While she was super nice and helpful, I didn't feel they knew what they were doing with a child, so then I took him to an opthamologist and felt the exam was much more thorough. I had never even heard of a pediatric opthamologist when I made the appointment, but if I had, I would have taken him there first. My son has a lazy eye and an appointment with a pedi opthamologist next week. My vote is for the opthamologist.

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answers from Columbus on

I would suggest that you contact a Developmental Optomitrist. Call your nearest children's hospital, ask for the OT department, and ask them for a referal. This kind of eye doctor will do a good exam for visual accuity, but they will also do an exam of his visual motor, occular motor, and visual perceptual skills, which could be issues given his other eye problems.

I cannot say for sure, but most of these kinds of doctors are much better with kids than what you describe.

You will get a referal to an opthemologist if there is a need for him to have more medical or surgical intervention.


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answers from Dallas on

A quick search showed me that there are specialists in Strabismus. I would do that. I think they are optomitrists with that specialty. You can ask your family doctor, check internet (e.g., Vitals), perhaps there is an organization that supports Strabismus that has a list of good doctors in your area, etc.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Asheville on

I'm with the rest! Pediatric Opthamologist! Our pediatrition noticed my DD eyes were pulling too far in and up when she looked to the side. He refered us to a great PO that specializes in Strabismus. He has an in-house optitian that, of course specializes in pediatrics. Check with a local Childrens Hospital for a referal if you cant find one.

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answers from Seattle on


But I would say so no matter what.

Children's eyes still focus somewhat fluidly and optometrists often under or over estimate what the actual correction needs to be. Plus they don't do 1/4 the number of tests for general eye health and vision that pediatric opthamologists do.

The REAL difference between opthamologists and optometrists is actually like that of a RN to an MD. Huge, major difference.

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answers from Dallas on

I would find a pediatric opthamologist. there are more differences than just the ability to do surgery.

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answers from Washington DC on

If your insurance will cover it. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors and with most insurances you would need a referral from your PCM to get an appt.

I have used an optometrist from the mall, my insurane covers them, with my one daughter. We have been very happy, they advertised for children. I have also used a pediatric ophthalmologist for my other daughter, but she has had cataract surgery so goes every 6 months for medical reasons.

I don't know where San Marcos is but if is is near San Fran or Stanford both communities have pediatric ophthalmologists that are very good. We used Dr. Good with the CA Pacific Medical Center. Friends of ours had their child in the Stanford Medical Center for eye cancer and were very happy with their pediatric ophthalmologist too.

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answers from Sacramento on

I have a degenerative eye condition in both eyes and also wear contacts, so I've spent a lot of time with both types of eye professionals. I would get in with an ophthalmologist first to have your son's eye health examined (they do this, in addition to surgery when it's needed). You want to know what conditions you're dealing with. Then, you can see an optometrist for a prescription that best suits his conditions and prescription needs.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Yes. There are pediatric opthamologists out there.

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answers from New York on

The opthamologist is a more highly qualified level of eye doctor because of the surgery aspect and the equipment available at that office. I had a great experience at a Pearl vision center with there Opthamologist.

My best friends opthamologist was critical in diagnosing some major circulatory problems in her husband when the vision symptoms were described. His optometrist missed it totally. He ended up being hospitalised with hypertension and diabetes. I hope this helps.

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answers from Lexington on

Many opthalmologist offices have an optometrist working in the office. The opthalmologist looks at the health of the eyeball and ensures the proper prescription for glasses... BUT....

I regret immensely that I did not look for a PEDIATRIC optometrist who would check for everything. The office I took kid to failed to test for everything and failed to find some vision issues for some years until I learned I had to specifically request all the tests be done (Ummm... how was I supposed to know - I trusted THEM to know - lesson learned).

I would take the child to both the opthalmologist AND to a pediatric optometrist because the optometrists does not do the eye health like the physician does.

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