Eye Doctors: Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist vs Optician

Optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians are all eye care professionals, but they have different levels of education and training, and they offer different services.

Optometrists are doctors of optometry (ODs). They complete a four-year optometry degree program and are licensed to perform comprehensive eye exams, diagnose vision problems, and prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Optometrists cannot perform surgery, but they can refer patients to ophthalmologists for more complex care.

Ophthalmologists are doctors of medicine (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who specialize in eye and vision care. They complete four years of medical school, followed by a three-year residency in ophthalmology. Ophthalmologists can perform comprehensive eye exams, diagnose and treat eye diseases, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and perform surgery.

Opticians are not doctors. They are trained to fit eyeglasses and contact lenses. Opticians do not perform eye exams or diagnose vision problems. They can only provide services that are authorized by a prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians:

Professional Education License Services
Optometrist Doctor of Optometry (OD) Licensed to practice optometry Comprehensive eye exams, diagnosis and treatment of vision problems, prescription of glasses and contact lenses
Ophthalmologist Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) Licensed to practice medicine and surgery Comprehensive eye exams, diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases, prescription of glasses and contact lenses, surgery
Optician No degree required Not licensed to practice medicine or optometry Fitting of eyeglasses and contact lenses

So, who should you see for your eye care? If you have a routine eye exam or need a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses, you can see an optometrist. If you have a more serious eye problem, such as a cataract or glaucoma, you should see an ophthalmologist. And if you just need your glasses or contact lenses adjusted, you can see an optician.

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