Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians are commonly referred to as eye doctors because they all work to keep people’s eyes healthy and their vision at its best. But which kind of eye doctor is right for you?
What is an ophthalmologist?
Ophthalmologists are the most stringently trained of the three kinds of eye care professionals. They are full-fledged doctors who have chosen to specialize in eye and vision care. Typically, they are required to complete four years of college, four years of medical school, a year of internship and at least three years of residency.
With the training to conduct eye exams, write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses, diagnose and treat diseases of the eye, prescribe medications, and perform eye surgery, ophthalmologists offer total eye care.
In addition, because they attended and graduated from medical school and studied the eye intensely, ophthalmologists are uniquely prepared to understand the connections between the eye and overall health. They understand how the side effects from prescriptions written by other physicians may affect eye health. They also know how the prescriptions they write for eye care are likely to affect other systems in the body. Ophthalmologists may also be more aware of how different diseases can affect the eyes, and how what they see during an eye exam may suggest illness in other areas of the body.
What is an optometrist?
Optometrists are eye doctors who have earned the Doctor of Optometry degree. While optometrists don’t attend medical school, they are generally required to complete four years of college in order to earn a degree in the sciences and then another four year program in an optometry school.
Optometrists can conduct eye exams, write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses, and prescribe the medications used to treat certain eye disorders. While some optometrists treat common eye issues and assist with pre- or post-operative eye care, they do not perform eye surgery. They generally refer patients with more serious problems to ophthalmologists.
What is an optician?
Opticians aren’t actually eye doctors, but they assist eye doctors in caring for a patient’s vision. While some states require opticians to be licensed, others require no formal training or licensing.
Opticians take prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists and use them to fit and sell eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Which kind of eye doctor is best?
If your eyes are generally healthy and you only need basic vision care, then whether to choose an ophthalmologists or optometrists is basically a matter of personal preference. Simply find a doctor you feel comfortable with.
If you develop or are already dealing with eye problems, then you may want to opt for an ophthalmologist since they’re capable of offering the most treatment options. But, many optometrists regularly work with and refer patients to ophthalmologists, so this may not be an issue for you.
Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians all work to protect and care for the vision of their patients and customers. Protect your vision with regular visits to your eye doctor.
“Ophthalmologists and Optometrists: Similarities and Differences” — MedicineNet
“Choosing an Eye Doctor” — All About Vision