We all know that these three specialist deal with eyes, but what are their qualifications, and who do we really need for what? If in doubt the term 'eye doctor' covers all situations, but here are the interesting differences between these three highly trained specialists. As you will see, these three professionals work hand in hand to provide a complete eye care network service for the public.
What is an Ophthalmologist?
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor and has earned the right to be titled 'MD'. They are physicians and doctors of medicine who have studied the medical and surgical care of the eyes and know about the prevention of eye disease and injury. In practice, ophthalmologists specialize in detecting and treating eye diseases. They are also the specialists who are qualified to perform any eye surgery. An ophthalmologist is a specialist who is qualified by lengthy medical education, training and experience to diagnose, treat and manage all eye and visual systems and is licensed by a state regulatory board to practice medicine and surgery. An ophthalmologist will have completed four or more years of college premedical education, four or more years of medical school, one year of internship and three or more years of specialized medical and surgical and refractive training and experience in eye care. An ophthalmologist is the specialist who can deliver total eye care: primary, secondary and tertiary (i.e., vision services, contact lenses, eye examinations, medical eye care and surgical eye care), as well as diagnosing general diseases of the body and treating ocular symptoms of other diseases.
What is an Optometrist?
An optometrist is an optometry doctor and their professional degree entitles them to be titled 'OD'. An optometrist specializes in prescribing glasses, contact lenses, vision therapy and low vision devices. Optometrists can detect and treat some diseases whilst performing eye examinations but will refer most diseases to an ophthalmologist. Most optometrists are not qualified to perform any eye surgeries. Optometrists are qualified to examine the internal and external structure of the eyes and to diagnose eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disorders. They can diagnose vision conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. Optometrists also do testing to determine the patient's ability to focus and coordinate the eyes, and to judge depth and see colors accurately. Optometrists prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, low vision aids, vision therapy and medicines to treat eye diseases. As primary eye care providers, optometrists are an integral part of the health care team and play a key part in the health care system. They are skilled in the co-management of care that affects the eye health and vision of their patients and are the first people you may see before referral to other eye care professionals.
What is an Optician?
An optician specializes in dispensing and fixing ophthalmic devices such as glasses or contact lenses. Opticians adjust and fit optical products such as glasses. Opticians usually go to special training courses to get their license and they usually are unable to prescribe either glasses or contact lenses. Some employers hire individuals with no background in opticianry to be opticians. Training may be informal, on-the-job or formal apprenticeship. Others seek people with college level training in opticianry. Formal opticianry training is offered in community colleges and some colleges and universities. Graduates may be awarded 2-year associate degrees in ophthalmic dispensing or optometric technology. Some states that license dispensing opticians allow graduates to take the licensure exam immediately upon graduation; others require a few months to a year of experience. Dispensing opticians may also gain credentials through voluntary certification or registration by the American Board of Opticianry and by the National Contact Lens Examiners. Certification must be renewed every 3 years through continuing education. The qualifying standards of opticians vary widely, but none are qualified to perform or advise on eye surgery or serious eye conditions.