Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optician — What’s the Difference?

optometrist vs ophthalmologist vs optician
We rely on our sight for almost all of our daily tasks, and choosing the correct eye care provider is vital to maintaining optimal vision. So, how do you know what type of provider you need for your eyes? The first step to choosing an ophthalmologist, optometrist, or optician is understanding the services each offers and what they’re capable of doing.

What is an Optometrist?

Optometrists are Doctors of Optometry (OD) that focus on the eye. Specifically, they prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and provide various therapies and treatments. Their training includes the completion of a four-year undergraduate degree and an additional four or five years of schooling from a school of optometry. A large portion of their studies concentrate on the detection, treatment, and management of eye diseases. Optometrists also offer treatments that Ophthalmologists typically do not, such as Vision Therapy, Low Vision services, and more

Optometrists are usually the primary care outlet for the eyes, and they’re who most people see for typical eye appointments. When patients are in doubt of who they should consult, usually it’s an optometrist.

Ophthalmologists normally collaborate with optometrists when providing care for various eye conditions, such as pre and post surgery, disease management, and more.

What is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is an osteopathic or medical doctor that specializes in the eye, primarily performing surgeries and treating serious diseases. To become an ophthalmologist, candidates must earn an undergraduate degree followed by an additional eight years or more of medical school. Their training allows them to diagnose and treat all eye diseases, and also provide surgical care.

Because ophthalmologists focus on disease and surgery, they may or may not prescribe glasses and contact lenses themselves, but they have the ability to do so if needed. Ophthalmologists are often in high-demand, and may require a referral to obtain an appointment.

What is an Optician?

By filling prescriptions from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, opticians are able to accurately size and configure eyeglasses and other eyewear. Opticians are not eye doctors, nor can they diagnose, prescribe, or treat any conditions, though they do provide valuable services by fitting, adjusting, and selling glasses.

An optician must complete a training program and obtain licensure depending on which state they’re practicing in. Some states will permit opticians to fit contact lenses too, though, normally, they must complete a certification program.

So, Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optician?

While all three professions require a set number of Continuing Education hours every few years in order to stay updated on current eye trends to maintain their licensure and effectively work with patients, it’s critical to receive care from the correct eye professional who has the training and skills necessary to treat your specific condition. Therefore, who you decide to utilize depends on your specific issue. If you’re having trouble with your vision or experiencing a medical problem related to your eyes, a good first step is to contact an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam who can then refer you either to an ophthalmologist, if needed, or have you fitted for glasses by an optician.

In general, when thinking about using an Optometrist versus an Ophthalmologist or Optician, follow the below rule of thumb:

  • Visit an Ophthalmologist if you suspect you have a serious eye condition or may need surgery.
  • See an Optometrist if you need an eye exam or to update your prescription.
  • Go to an Optician to get your glasses or lenses adjusted, or purchase contact lenses.

If you like this post leave a comment below! Also, be sure to check out our blog on getting routine eye exams.