Many people don’t understand the difference between eye doctors who are optometrists and those who are ophthalmologists. Optometrists have more limited training and usually focus on eyeglasses, contact lenses and other ways of improving visual acuity. Ophthalmologists are MD’s who have specialty training in eye diseases, including eye surgery. Many ophthalmologists sub-specialize in the various parts of the eye.
Despite their more limited training and narrow (but important) role, optometrists are used by many patients as their front-line eye doctors whom they see regularly. That can bring about a malpractice issue when the optometrist has failed to detect an eye disease and delayed sending the patient to an ophthalmologist.
Anytime the patient’s vision cannot be corrected with lenses to 20/20, a red flag should go up. An optometrist who fails to investigate for the cause of the loss of visual acuity flunks optometry 101. In one malpractice case discussed in an article for optometrists, the optometrist failed to do any followup for this red flag or several others in a patient who turned out to have a slow growing cancer in her brain that was pressing on her optic nerve. By the time she got into competent hands two years later, it was too late to save the vision in that eye.
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