Optometrist, Opticians, Ophthalmologists - What's The Difference

Optician examining eyeglass lenses - photo credit GLCO

Ever wondered why there are two types of eye doctors and why there are so many similarities among optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists in the eye care professional world?
There are essentially three speciality eye care professional roles. Optometrist, Optician and Ophthalmologist and within these specialties there are endless subspecialty services. So why are there so many different types of eye care professionals and what’s the difference in each.

Vision and Eye Health Expert Professionals

To easily understand the eye and all its complexities we can summarize the care into three categories. Optics, vision care and eye health care. While each eyecare speciality has its own key role within one of these categories, most overlap in their skill set and knowledge and complement each other.  

Optician: Your Glasses & Optics Expert

In their time, the local optician was the master of their trade. With years specializing in their craft, they provided vision to their community.

Today, the role of optician has expanded but is primarily focused on your vision and vision care. Many opticians receive advanced training and state-licensure in optics, lens manufacturing, refraction and contact lens examinations.

Some opticians even earn the title of Master Optician by the American Board of Opticianry.

When to visit an Optician

  • Precise fitting of glasses and contacts
  • Personalized eyewear styling
  • Eyewear and lens making and repair

Optometrist: Your Vision & Eye Health Care Specialist

Optometrists are the eye doctors with the most training specialized in all areas of eye health, vision and optics.

Optometrists are responsible for the primary routine eye care of your eyes through annual eye exams and who you go to for eye health conditions such as eye infections, glaucoma and diabetic eye care.

While the role of optometry in eye care today is very broad, many doctors tend to focus on certain aspects of the field to offer more specialized care to their patients. Many optometrists are also trained to perform specific eye surgeries and procedures. Some popular specialty optometry services include glaucoma management, diabetic eye care, pediatrics, dry eye disease, specialty contact lens services and advanced vision and refractive services.

When should you see an Optometrist

  • Routine annual eye exam
  • Glasses and contact lens prescriptions
  • Eye infections and eye health issues
  • Urgent and medical eye care
  • Vision care

Ophthalmologist: Your Eye Surgeon

Ophthalmologists are surgeons that specialize or sub-specialize in different areas of the eye. While many ophthalmologists also perform primary eye care, most of an ophthalmologist’s training is focused on surgical procedures and advanced eye disease treatment and management.

Today, most ophthalmologists operate in a referral role preferring to focus on patients being referred to them by the patient’s optometrist.

When should you see an Ophthalmologist

  • Eye surgery
  • Advanced eye disease
  • Emergency eye care

While their roles in the care of your eye health and vision may overlap, opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists each have a pivotal role in ensuring the best for your eye & visual health.

This article was written by a state-licensed optical professional. At The Optical. Co, we believe in filling the internet with news and information from trusted professional sources. If you agree with this mission, please consider sharing this article on any and all of your favorite social sites.

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