Demystifying the Eye Doctor – What They Can and Can’t Do

When it comes to our eyes, there is nothing more important than seeking the proper care and attention from a qualified eye doctor. However, many people are unclear about what exactly an eye doctor can do, and what falls outside their area of expertise. In this article, we will shed some light on the role of an eye doctor, the services they can provide, as well as the limitations to their scope of practice. So, let’s demystify the eye doctor!

What is an Eye Doctor?

An eye doctor, also known as an ophthalmologist or optometrist, is a medical professional who specializes in eye care. They are extensively trained and have the knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat a wide range of eye conditions and diseases.

(It’s worth noting that in the UK, the terms ophthalmologist and optometrist are used to distinguish between two different types of eye doctors. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have completed medical school, whereas optometrists have completed a degree in optometry.)

What Can an Eye Doctor Do?

The primary role of an eye doctor is to assess and manage the overall health of your eyes. They are trained to perform eye exams, prescribe glasses or contact lenses, diagnose and treat various eye conditions, and even perform eye surgeries.

(If you experience any issues with your eyes, such as blurred vision, eye pain, or redness, you should schedule an appointment with an eye doctor as soon as possible.)

An eye doctor will assess your vision, measure the refractive errors in your eyes (such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism), and prescribe the appropriate corrective lenses to improve your vision. They will also check for any signs of eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy, and guide you through the necessary treatment options.

(Regular eye examinations are crucial, as they can help detect early signs of eye diseases when treatment is most effective.)

What Can’t an Eye Doctor Do?

While eye doctors are highly skilled professionals who can tackle many eye-related issues, there are some limitations to their scope of practice. For instance, an eye doctor cannot perform complex eye surgeries that require a specialist, such as retinal detachment repair or invasive laser surgeries. In such cases, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist, who has undergone additional training in surgical procedures.

An eye doctor is also not the primary healthcare provider for conditions unrelated to the eyes. For general health concerns or issues beyond the scope of their specialization, it is best to consult your general practitioner or a relevant specialist.


Now that you have a better understanding of the role of an eye doctor, you can approach your next eye appointment with confidence. Remember, an eye doctor can do a lot to ensure the health of your eyes and the clarity of your vision, but they may refer you to a specialist if your condition requires further attention. Prioritizing regular eye exams and seeking proper eye care will help you maintain optimal eye health for years to come.