Ophthalmologist… Optometrist… Optician… What’s the difference..?

So, it’s time to see an Eye Care Professional but you’re not sure which one you need to see.. There seems to be a few options, but which is the right one for you? Without getting too technical, we’ll give you the specs on which option would best suit your optical needs. Now, just to be totally clear, there are more than just 3 Eye Care Professions, but lets break down 3 commonly used (and may times confused) Optical Professionals.

Ophthalmologist: The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines an Ophthalmologist (also known as an Eye M.D.) as “a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat.” You can consider and Ophthalmologist as a “Specialist” with your eyes. You’d visit this doctor when you require surgeries and extended care for conditions such as Cataracts, Glaucoma or a traumatic eye injury, to name a few. The Ophthalmologist can perform many of the same tasks as an Optometrist, yet their objective is to provide more specialized vision care.

Optometrist: The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines an Optometrist (also known as an Eye Doctor) as “healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from vision testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes.” Your eye doctor is the one that will administer the Comprehensive Health Check (roughly, yearly), Eye Exams, Standard Dilation, Contact Lens Exams and Spectacle & Contact Lens Prescriptions. You should visit your Eye Doctor for any vision changes you may be experiencing as well as to get the overall health of your eyes and vision checked. While your doctor is performing their exam, if they encounter something that needs further attention, they may refer you to a specialist (an Ophthalmologist). A wide range of vision care tasks can be performed by your Optometrist, such as treatment for Glaucoma, Cataracts, Diabetes and Macular Degeneration; but in some instances, additional and/or extended testing or care may be necessary.

Optician: So, an Optician (or Licensed Optician, depending on your state) is the eye care professional that will ensure that you receive what the doctor ordered. Most times, the doctors will make recommendations for your vision care and leave any additional options up to the Optical for guidance. The Opticians are responsible for ensuring the prescription that is being dispensed to you is the same as what the doctor prescribed. The Opticians are responsible for ensuring that your new (or reused) eyewear will be suitable for the prescription, suitable for processing and fit you properly. Opticians are also responsible for being the Optical Knowledge-Base in any optical location. I generally tell clients, that aren’t sure about an Opticians role, to think of us a “Optical Pharmacists”. We take the prescriptions that your doctor writes, make any adjustments based on your needs, and fill the Rx as needed. There are many other “hats” that opticians wear in the Optical, but these are just a few to help you understand the differences between these Optical Professionals.

In the Optical World, there are many different professionals that are integral to getting you the best vision care. Some of these professionals can be referred to as “The Unsung Hero’s” of the industry; Such as (Just to name a few):

  • Doctor’s Technicians
  • Specialty Contact Lens Fitters
  • Optical Lab Technicians
  • Eyewear Consultants
  • Greeters
  • If we missed you in the list, you’re still an Optical Hero! 😉

As always, if there is any confusion as to where to go for your Eyewear and Eye Care needs, or you just need a bit of direction, a Licensed Optician is always a great knowledge-base. Find your local Licensed Optician and inquire about any questions you may have regarding your Glasses, Contact Lenses and/or Exams. “To Look & See your best, a Licensed Optician is your vision expert.”