The three Os – Optometrist, ophthamologist or optician

You’ve probably heard the terms optometrist, ophthamalogist and optician, but do you know what the difference is? You may need to see any one of them in your life time, but we wanted to clarify which you would need and when.

Courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr

Courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr

Here are the three Os:

Optometrist

Optometrists (OD, Doctors of Optometry) examine and treat eyes for both vision and health problems. Optometrists correct refractive errors by prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses, some also provide low vision and vision therapy services. Optometrists also diagnose and treat diseases of the eye and are licensed to prescribe medications to treat eye problems and diseases.

Training for an optometrist includes a four-year undergraduate degree and four years of post-graduate professional training in optometry school. An optional one year residency in a specialty (pediatrics, low vision, contact lenses) is sometimes completed.

When you see them: You should visit an optometrist for your annual eye exam  to receive an updated pair of glasses or contact lenses, and if you have any other eye issues, such as dry eyes, allergies, pain etc.

Ophthalmologist 

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) or an osteopathic doctor (DO) who specializes in eye and vision care. In addition to the services provided by optometrists, ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye surgery.

Ophthalmologists generally complete four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and a minimum of three years of hospital-based residency in ophthalmology.

When you see them:  Your optometrist will be able to manage and treat the majority of your eyecare needs.  However, your optometrist may refer you to an ophthalmologist if you require surgical intervention such as cataract surgery or retinal repair, or if you require disease-related specialty care.

Optician

An optician is a specialized practitioner (but not a doctor) who uses prescriptions written by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist to select eyeglasses, contact lenses and other eyewear. Opticians are licensed in the State of California.

When you see them: Once you’ve had your annual eye exam and your prescription updated, you may choose to take your prescription to an optician to have new glasses made.

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