The Differences Between Optometrists And Ophthalmologists And Which One You Should See for Routine Eye Care

When it comes to eye care, there are two primary professionals that you can seek assistance from eye care professionals - optometrists and ophthalmologists. While both are trained to provide eye care, there are some differences between them. Understanding these differences can help you make informed decisions about your eye care needs. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist and which one you should see for routine eye care.

The Differences Between Optometrists And Ophthalmologists And Which One You Should See for Routine Eye Care in Olympia

The Blurring Of Lines Between An Optometrist & Ophthalmologist

The role of the optometrist has evolved over the years into a primary care medical role with a lot of overlap into the role of the ophthalmologist. This has to do with a variety of factors including a major national shortage of Ophthalmologists necessitating mobilizing optometrists to stand in. In the past a clear line was drawn at surgery, however due to the shortage and improvements in technology, as of 2023, 10 states license optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures.

American Family Vision Clinic

Role of Optometrists in Eye Care

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who are licensed to provide primary vision care. They typically complete a four-year doctor of optometry degree program after completing an undergraduate degree. During their education, optometrists receive training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of a range of eye conditions, including vision problems, eye diseases, and injuries.

Optometrists can perform routine eye exams to assess the overall health of the eyes and identify any vision problems. They can prescribe corrective lenses, including glasses and contact lenses, to correct refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. They may also prescribe medications to treat certain eye conditions, such as glaucoma, and provide pre- and post-operative care for certain eye surgeries.


Role of Ophthalmologists in Eye Care

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and disorders. They typically complete four years of medical school, followed by a one-year internship and a three-year residency in ophthalmology. Some ophthalmologists may also complete a fellowship to further specialize in a particular area of eye care, such as glaucoma or pediatric ophthalmology.

As medical doctors, ophthalmologists are licensed to perform eye surgeries and provide a broader range of eye care services than optometrists. They can diagnose and treat a wide variety of eye conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. They can also prescribe medications, perform laser surgeries, and provide pre- and post-operative care for advanced eye surgeries.

Role of Ophthalmologists in Eye Care
Role of Ophthalmologists in Eye Care

Role of Ophthalmologists in Eye Care

For routine eye care, such as a comprehensive eye exam, emergency eye exams, diabetic eye exams, dry eye treatment, or the prescription of glasses or contact lenses, either an optometrist or ophthalmologist can provide the necessary care. However, there are a few factors that may influence which one you choose to see.

An important factor to consider is the availability of the eye care provider. Our optometrists are more widely available than ophthalmologists and may have more flexible hours, making it easier to schedule an appointment. Additionally, our optometrists may be more affordable than ophthalmologists, as their eye care services tend to be less towards the surgical side.

Furthermore our optometrist schedules longer exams and spends more time with the patient to cover their questions and concerns. 

Please call us at (360) 491-2121 to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with our optometrist.

Role of Ophthalmologists in Eye Care

How Can I Find an Optometrist Near Me?

If you're searching for a new optometrist or if our optometry clinic in Olympia is too far for you, you can find an optometrist near you online by using the phrase “optometrist near me” or “eye doctor near me”.

Learn About Our Experienced Optometrist

Originally from Arizona, Levi received his Bachelor’s of Science in Zoology from Northern Arizona University and his Doctorate in Optometry from Pacific University in Oregon. He is board certified in developmental vision and vision therapy by COVD. He purchased the practice from the Inversos in 2012. He likes spending time with his family (wife and two children,) mountain biking, and undertaking creative projects. He wrote the vision therapy software used by the clinic, retinal camera software, and the computerized eye-chart used for exams.

Role of Ophthalmologists in Eye Care

Common Questions

Optometry plays a crucial role in primary eye care. Optometrists are trained professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating vision and eye problems. They provide a range of services, including routine eye exams, prescribing glasses and contact lenses, and diagnosing and managing eye diseases and conditions. Optometrists also work closely with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive eye care to their patients.
One of the main advantages of seeing an optometrist is that they are highly trained professionals who specialize in eye care. They can diagnose and treat a wide range of vision and eye problems, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia. Optometrists can also diagnose and manage eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, they can prescribe glasses and contact lenses to improve vision and provide recommendations for promoting and maintaining good eye health. To schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor, please call (360) 491-2121.
A routine eye exam is a comprehensive exam that checks your vision and evaluates the overall health of your eyes. This type of exam is typically performed by an optometrist and is used to determine if you need glasses or contact lenses, and to identify any eye diseases or conditions that may require treatment. A medical eye exam, on the other hand, is an exam that is performed to diagnose and manage a specific eye condition or disease. This type of exam is performed by our optometrist and may involve more specialized tests and procedures than a routine eye exam. Examples of medical eye conditions include eye emergencies, dry eye, low vision, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. These exams are typically covered by health insurance, while routine eye exams may not be covered unless there is a medical necessity. Vision savings plans, such as VSP and EyeMed, are savings cards that will typically cover the costs of routine eye exams.
The Differences Between Optometrists And Ophthalmologists And Which One You Should See for Routine Eye Care
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam with Our Eye Doctor In Olympia for Optimal Eye Health

Understanding the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists is crucial for maintaining good eye health. Please call us at (360) 491-2121 to schedule a visit or drop in to check out our optical.

For those seeking advanced medical eye care visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
1 2 3



Understanding Foggy vision

Is foggy vision troubling you? Let our experienced optometrist restore your sight – book an appointment today and see the difference! The term foggy vision often refers to a visual disturbance characterized by blurred, cloudy, or hazy vision, which can make seeing clearly challenging. As your local optometrist, we recognize the significance of maintaining optimal […]

Read More

Vision Therapy for Nystagmus: Improving Visual Function and Quality of Life

According to the National Eye Institute, nystagmus affects approximately 0.24% of the general population in the United States. This means a whopping 720,000 individuals in the US face the challenges of nystagmus. How does Nystagmus Impact Vision?  Nystagmus is a condition that affects the eyes, causing involuntary and rapid movements that can make it difficult to […]

Read More

Cleaning Your Eyelids With Hypochlorous Acid: The Ultimate Solution for Eyelid Infections and Inflammation From Blepharitis

Are you tired of dealing with eyelid inflammation? Well, there's good news for you! Hypochlorous acid, a natural bactericidal compound, has been clinically shown to help fight against various eyelid conditions such as blepharitis, and it's even effective at preventing the development of styes and other eyelid infections. In this blog, we'll be exploring the […]

Read More
see all blogs

Contact Us To Amplify Your EyeCare

American Family Vision Clinic Logo

Working Hours




400 Yauger Way SW. Bldg 1, Ste A Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 459-1097
Website Accessibility Policy
Safety protocols page
privacy policy
For Patients
Call Us
eyefile-adduserphone-handsetcalendar-fullarrow-uparrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram