Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist vs Optician: The Difference?

When talking about eye care specialists, people may use “ophthalmologist,” “optometrist” and “optician” interchangeably, but each has unique distinctions.

ophthalmologist crossing arms

To receive the best in vision care, you need to visit the right type of professional.

When talking about eye care specialists, people sometimes use “ophthalmologist,” “optometrist” and “optician” interchangeably, but these three terms describe distinct professions.

What Opticians Do

An optician is a technician who has trained to fit eyeglasses, contact lenses and other corrective devices. Opticians are not licensed to perform eye exams, write prescriptions or treat eye diseases.

What Optometrists Do

An optometrist is an eye doctor who has earned a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.). A Doctor of Optometry usually requires a four-year undergraduate degree in the sciences and four years of post-graduate training at a school of optometry.

Optometrists perform comprehensive eye exams, correct refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism) and write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses. Some optometrists have specialized training to treat low vision problems. Optometrists are not medical doctors and cannot perform surgery.

What Ophthalmologists Do

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) who is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. Ophthalmologists have completed a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of eight combined years of medical school and residency. Ophthalmologists perform all tasks that optometrists are licensed to do, but they also perform eye surgery as well as treat all types of eye disease.

Some ophthalmologists complete additional training called fellowships to specialize in specific areas of ophthalmology like glaucoma, cornea, retina, neuro-ophthalmology, plastic surgery or pediatrics.

For a comprehensive eye exam and assessment of your vision health, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Annual comprehensive eye exams help keep your vision clear and prevent eye disease. Your ophthalmologist will test your visual acuity, evaluate your current eye prescription and screen you for degenerative eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration