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What are the differences between an Ophthalmologist, an Optometrist and an Optician?

Posted on September 02 2015

It is very important to take care of our eyes throughout our lives, and part of that means having our vision checked by eye-care professionals. However, many people may not realize that there are different types of eye-care professionals. In the vision-care field, there are ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians. There are key differences between the positions as well. So what exactly are the roles of ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor, with an M.D. degree, specializing in eye health. As with all types of medical doctors, ophthalmologists complete medical school, an internship and at least three years of residency. Ophthalmologists are trained in a wide range of vision care, meaning they are able to perform eye surgery as well as diagnose eye problems and prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Some ophthalmologists dedicate themselves to research and may have a particular area of focus, such as eye diseases, pediatric ophthalmology or eye-related plastic surgery.

An optometrist is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of all sorts of vision issues. However, optometry generally focuses on eye examinations to determine vision corrections (through glasses or contacts) and diagnose eye conditions such as nearsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. Optometrists also look for any eye problems that could become serious issues in the future (such as glaucoma, cataracts or retinal troubles). Likewise, an optometrist can check whether diseases like hypertension or diabetes are affecting a patient’s eyes. An optometrist is a doctor of optometry (O.D.) who has been trained through optometry school and is licensed by the state. Most people who are simply having their vision assessed and corrected will first see an optometrist.

An optician is an important licensed eye-care professional who makes and adjusts lenses, frames, contacts and other vision devices for customers. Working in tandem with an ophthalmologist or optometrist who has determined a customer’s eye prescription, opticians often fulfill an eye prescription by grinding lenses or otherwise preparing ophthalmic items. Opticians also work with a customer to make sure their eyewear fits properly, works for their lifestyle and is providing the right corrective power.

Determining which of these three eye-care professionals to visit depends on your specific needs and vision condition. When you have an eye check-up, you may end up working with both an optometrist and an optician. Also, your health insurance may sometimes designate whether you can see an ophthalmologist, optometrist or optician for a particular type of treatment. Even if you’re not sure whether you need an ophthalmologist, optometrist or optician, it is definitely a good idea to have your vision checked if you have not recently done so because our eyes and vision change constantly throughout our lives. Your glasses or contacts prescription from six or seven years ago may have changed dramatically. Vision check-ups also give eye-care professionals a chance to spot and treat any serious issues that could negatively affect your sight.

 

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