An optometrist earns a four-year degree in optometry after first completing an undergraduate degree; optometrists study and treat the eye as a visual system with their main emphasis being the diagnosis and treatment of visual related disorders, such as far-sightedness, near-sightedness, and astigmatism through the prescribing of glasses
, contact lenses, and other low vision aids
. They are also trained to recognize common eye diseases such as cataracts
, macular degeneration, and glaucoma
and initiate common, baseline treatment recommendations, but these are often times of secondary importance in the daily dealings of an optometrist....
An ophthalmologist, on the other hand, is a medical doctor first and foremost, having completed a four-year medical doctorate degree in addition to a college, undergraduate degree. After completion of the medical degree, an ophthalmologist also completes one year of experience as a general doctor treating hospitalized and clinic patients in a wide range of specialties such as OB/GYN, psychiatry, internal medicine, and general surgery, as well as having three additional years of specialty training in ophthalmology where they are taught to recognize, diagnose, and treat the medical and surgical diseases of the eye and body as they relate to the eyes.
First, let me say that all optometrists are not the same; there are many optometrists who pride themselves on being concerned with and treating the eye as a whole, and are not focused solely on selling glasses or contact lenses. That being said, many optometrists staff doc-in-the-box optical shops such as you might find in shopping malls and have as their primary goal the dispensing of glasses and contact lens prescriptions while performing cursory or less than complete eye exams. Suffice it to say, on the whole, most optometrists do not have significant experience treating complex medical problems of the eye.
So, to answer your question, you need to be seeing an ophthalmologist who is trained to handle these types of problems.