Optometrist Vs. Pediatric Opthalmologist

Updated on August 10, 2016
R.W. asks from Flushing, NY
16 answers

My daughter failed her vision screening in school back in March. I took her to an optometrist who said her vision was borderline (20/40) and didn't want to prescribe glasses just yet. He said he wanted to check her vision again in 6 months, which is coming up in September. My mother has been urging me to take my daughter to a pediatric opthalmologist instead. Is there any reason to go to an opthalmologist instead of the optometrist? I find the optometrist/opthalmologist thing a little confusing.Thanks

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answers from Norfolk on

Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

When does school start? I'd take her back to the optometrist before then, if possible, in case glasses are needed now.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

I would go back to the optometrist. Children's eyes and eye sight change rapidly during growth spurts so what your daughter is experiencing is nothing unusual. The optometrist will check things like pressure and the health of the eye and it's nerves. If the optometrist was concerned he would have referred you to an ophthalmologist, and might still if he sees anything amiss. Most likely she will need glasses and her vision will need to be rechecked (and will have changed) every year.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

An optometrist corrects vision. An opthamologist is a doctor that specialises in diseases of the eyes.

Unless your daughter has an underlying condition (type I diabetes or a lazy eye), it sounds to me like your daughter is fine with an optometrist. You said she's due again in September. I would try to get her in before school starts so that she can start off the school year with glasses if she'll need them. Kids grow fast, which means that their vision can change fast too, so make sure you keep up with this.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Ophthalmologist = communication with the brain.
My DD has been seeing one since 18mos...her vision is terrible, but she also has a floating eye, which her brain has "shut off". She basically only sees out of one eye and has no depth perception. So we've been working with a pediatric ophthalmologist to correct this (and may need surgery).
An Optometrist could just prescribe her glasses.
That's the difference.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

A pediatric ophthalmologist has gone to medical school and done 3-5 years advanced training - (1 year internship, 3 year ophthalmology residency, 1-2 year fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology). An optometrist has a 4 year degree and is NOT a medical doctor.

I would only see a pediatric ophthalmologist for my son. They have substantially more training, spend their days seeing only children and are more familiar with problems beyond simple nearsightedness. My son failed his eye exam in kindergarten and was 20/40 according to the eye chart at the pediatrician. The pediatric ophthalmologist (who personally spent well over an hour with him and was extremely thorough, not counting time with the technician/nurse) found he has an astigmatism complicating his nearsightedness. Perhaps the optometrist would have found this, perhaps not.

If you have vision insurance (or an ACA compliant plan) it should cover an ophthalmologist for your daughter if it would cover an optometrist. As this is not an emergency, it shouldn't matter if it takes an extra few days to get an appointment.

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answers from Atlanta on

An opthamologist is an eye (orbital) MD. An Optometrist is a specialist but NOT a doctor.

Are they things like glaucoma or other eye issues that run in your family to cause your mom to worry? What about her father's side of the family?

How old is your daughter?

I would go back in September and see if there is any change.

My 3rd son failed his eye exam at school. He was in the middle of a growth spurt. Took him back in 3 months later and he was good. We are staying on top of it. My parents both wear glasses.

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answers from New York on

The difference is that the Ophthalmologist is an MD. A doctor and a surgeon. The optician has a license and certificate on how to prescribe glasses. They are found in places like Lenscrafters.

If you were to take your child to the Pediatric Ophthalmologist, one of the technicians would do the visual exam and the doctor would then take a peek and you'd be all done. It would take some time to get an appointment, probably. And they might not accept your insurance for just a basic eye exam. Check on that.

If you went back to the optician, he'd check her eyes and do another vision test. If he sees an issue, he'd certainly tell you to make an appointment with the doctor. Go back for the 6 month check up and see what's what. Ask if you should see an MD. And If you don't feel confident, then just go see an MD.

Good luck!

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answers from Portland on

I've seen both.

I've worn glasses since i was seven. I always saw an optometrist.

I saw an ophthalmologist at the hospital because of my medical condition. They are an actual doctor.

When I saw that doctor, I had tests done that an optometrist would not do. Extensive testing well beyond what is typically required.

At my optometrist's, one of the staff is an ophthalmologist. I have seen her when my optometrist was not available. She did the regular optometrist tests - because that's what my appointment was for. Even though she is a physician and more specialized, she wouldn't do anything more than my optometrist - because there was no need.

Not sure if that answers you question - but typically you don't need to see an ophthalmologist unless your doctor or optometrist refers you.

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answers from Miami on

I had two eye surgeries done when I was a child in the 70s and my parents always put my health - including my sight above everything else. My son has visited a pediatric ophthalmologist several times - to monitor his condition. Yes, see a pediatric - they specialize in children!!! If your daughter can't see well, you are giving her a handicap at school, in sports, and in development into a productive adult.


I had two eye surgeries done when I was a child in the 70s and my parents always put my health - including my sight above everything else. My son has visited a pediatric ophthalmologist several times - to monitor his condition. Yes, see a pediatric - they specialize in children!!! If your daughter can't see well, you are giving her a handicap at school, in sports, and in development into a productive adult.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

Unless she is having other issues with her eyes other then vision issues, or is at risk of something like Uveitis due to JRA, there is no reasons to go to an ophthalmologist. If there is a need your optometrist will refer you.

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answers from Portland on

Optometrists measure and prescribe glasses. He is trained to see things that need to be treated by an opthomoligist and refer the patient.

The opthomoligist looks for and treats medical problems related to the eye. He would give your daughter the same tests given by the optometrist.

It's normal for kids eyes to change as they grow. 20/40 is just a bit different than perfect 20/20. The school eye test is not accurate. That's why your daughter should see an optometrist. There is no advantage to also be seen by an opthomoligist. You can call their office and ask if they should be seen. I very much doubt they'll say yes.

There is a new staying, "less is more" that I've found to be very true. Your daughter's vision is slightly less than perfect. An optometrist is the best professional to test eye sight.

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answers from Boston on

Go for the ophthalmologist - you want an MD to look at a child with problems just to detect or rule out medical conditions. An optometrist is fine for glasses and basic screening for things like glaucoma, but is not an MD. If you need a comparison, consider that a DO (osteopath) or a DC (chiropractor) has a lot of medical training but is not an MD. Same for on OD (optometrist) vs. ophthalmologist. You'll get a second opinion about glasses, first of all. If your daughter does need glasses, you can always have those checked/adjusted with the optometrist for routine care. If you have one connected with an optician who makes the glasses, that's convenient.

Here's a link: https://aapos.org/terms/conditions/132



answers from Pittsburgh on

I have been wearing glasses since I was 5 and have always seen an ophthalmologist. I believe all ophthalmologists can do surgery but I'm not positive about that.

When my ophthalmologist retired I was surprised that most offices wanted to put me in with an optometrist unless you have a disease of the eye. My old ophthalmologist always said I was more at risk for certain problems because of my prescription. I didn't want to be scrambling or just meeting an ophthalmologist when that happens so I kept calling around until I found an office that would put me in with one all the same. (Insurance pays the same.)

They also put my daughter in with him for her very first exam. She passed her school test but complained that she had trouble seeing. The ophthalmologist said that she was within the normal limits but her one eye is not 20/20. She would need a very minor correction and he said that he typically would not correct it. He left the decision up to me.

I feel from personal experience that once your eyes get used to being corrected the downhill slide picks up speed. I chose not to correct them at that time but will see where she stands when she returns for her next appointment.

I see nothing wrong with requesting an ophthalmologist when her next appointment is.



answers from New York on

Yes. You only have one set of eyes. They deserve only the best. Pediatric Opthamilogist.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Okay, I've done the school assessment things, at school, and had kids fail stuff. But then go to a real doc and they do fine. If the eye doc said she doesn't need glasses then why worry about it? I do have to ask, is it far off or up close where she failed? I don't wear glasses so I have no idea what some of your question meant.

Who did the eye test at school? Did they use machines to gauge the eye itself? Or just have an eye chart down the hallway from them? There are many things that can influence an eye test.

I couldn't do one that was under fluorescent lights. I have a low CFF and can almost always detect their flickering. I also get huge migraines if I have to sit in a room where they are in use for more than a few minutes.

I would say go to the eye glasses doc and if she still doesn't need glasses then don't worry about it. If she has trouble seeing up close then get her some 1 magnifying glasses at a local dollar store, where everything is a dollar. I have about 10 pair of those so that I always have a pair in reach.

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