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Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician

Choosing an Eye Doctor: Ophthalmologist vs. Optometrist vs. Optician

Having healthy eyes means more than just being able to see well. While accurate vision is certainly a major part of ocular health, the overall health of your eyes is a bit more complex and requires visiting the right doctor at the right time.

An ophthalmologist, optometrist and optician can each play an important role in providing excellent eye care to you and your family. However, specific training and skill sets vary between the three types of healthcare professionals. Knowing the difference will enable you to determine who you need to visit according to your unique situation and circumstances.


An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in vision and eye care. Ophthalmologists must complete college as well as eight years of additional medical training. They are able to diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform surgery, prescribe and fit eyeglasses or contact lenses. Many ophthalmologists are involved in medical research regarding various vision disorders and eye diseases. Some continue with schooling in order to offer advanced care in a certain subspecialty field, such as pediatrics, cornea, retina, glaucoma, or plastic surgery.


Optometrists provide vision care that ranges from eyesight testing and correction to the diagnosis and treatment of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. Four years of optometry school following college are needed to receive a Doctor of Optometry, or OD, degree. Primary responsibilities include performing eye exams and vision testing, prescribing and fitting glasses and contacts, detecting eye abnormalities and prescribing ocular medication when needed.


An optician is a technician who is trained to design, verify and fit eyeglasses, contact lenses and other devices intended to correct your vision. An ophthalmologist or optometrist provides an optician with a prescription to fill. Opticians are not trained to test vision or write prescriptions, nor are they allowed to diagnose or treat eye disease.

Good eye health & vision

Good ocular health and vision are essential to everyday life. If either suffers, your ability to work, drive and play might be dramatically affected. Other health conditions can affect your eyesight, such as HIV, AIDS, diabetes, thyroid conditions, or high blood pressure.

Signs of ocular disease can be hard to detect. If you experience any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with an ophthalmologist immediately.

  • Distorted or double vision
  • Excess tearing
  • Bulging of one or both eyes
  • Halos marked by colored circles around lights
  • Dark veil or curtain that blocks your vision
  • Black specks in your line of vision
  • Eye injury or consistent pain
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Misaligned eyes
  • Persistently red eyes
  • Eyelid abnormalities

Ocular issues can be genetic; if you have a family history of eye disease, see an ophthalmologist regularly since many eye diseases go unnoticed for quite some time. Everyone should have a full medical eye exam by the age of 40 or earlier if recommended by your optometrist.

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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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