About the Job

Differences Between Optometrists, Opticians, and Ophthalmologists

Differences Between Optometrists, Opticians, and Ophthalmologists

Safeguarding Your Vision

We are all dependent on our vision in more ways than we realize. Without a healthy vision, we would be unable to smoothly do a lot of things. Our vision enables us to properly work and recognize faces and objects.

There are numerous factors that can affect our eyes, including certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). Genetics are also to be blamed for certain eye problems. If someone in the family has issues related to eyesight, then it can also make the other members of the family more prone to such condition. For this reason, undergoing a routine eye checkup is very important. For a more thorough eye examination, individuals can visit an ophthalmologist. 

Some of the eye problems that an individual may experience may include the following:

  • Temporary or permanent loss of vision
  • Double vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Halos or glares
  • Epiphora or excessive tearing
  • Eye pain
  • Bulging or protruding eyes (either one or both eyes)
  • Eye abnormalities
  • Unusual eye redness
  • Eye diseases that run in the family
  • Eye problems associated with thyroid disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Misaligned eyes

To get your eyes checked, make sure that you are consulting the right eye care professional for your condition. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians provide specific eye care to consumers. Let's take a look at their differences, levels of training, and expertise below:

What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is a healthcare professional who provides primary eye care, ranging from vision tests to the correction, diagnosis, treatment, and management of eye problems. However, optometrists are not medical doctors. They study three years or more in college and receive an optometry (O.D.) degree after four years of optometry school. 

Optometrists are licensed to practice the following:

  • Perform vision tests and eye examinations
  • Prescribe and provide corrective lenses
  • Detect eye abnormalities
  • Prescribe medications for certain eye diseases

An optometrist also helps in the rehabilitation of low vision and performs certain types of surgical procedures. An optometrist can also participate in the pre- as well as post-operative care for those who have undergone eye surgery performed by an ophthalmologist.

Similar to ophthalmologists, optometrists also need to maintain their license and stay updated on the latest standards concerning eye care.

What is an optician?

An optician is the first person an individual would encounter when trying to seek eye care. Opticians are said to be directly involved in customer service. Most opticians work in vision care stores. There are also opticians who work with optometrists who are practicing in the medical setting. However, opticians spend most of their time with customers than anyone else when it comes to eye checkups. 

Optometrists are known to have technical knowledge that would enable them to prescribe or recommend certain eyewear to their customer. An optician would take accurate measurements and helps customers choose the right eyewear that would suit them. The measurements taken would apply to the thickness of the cornea as well as the other parts of the eye. An optician is able to interpret the prescription that must have been issued by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Thus, it would allow them to create orders that are to be carried out by laboratory technicians.

An optician should also have the knowledge when it comes to the detection of eye problems. Opticians are said to play a number of roles, which include making sure that a vision care center smoothly and properly runs. Their responsibilities also involve keeping track of patient records along with patient prescriptions, inventory, and list of appointments. Customers who have a broken frame or looking to change their frame would be reaching out to opticians who would then provide them with the necessary repair or change work.

Opticians can also help the customers in providing them proper insights on how to care for their eyes to prevent any further damage. An optician is not, however, permitted to write down prescriptions or recommend any visual corrections. They are also not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.

What is an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in vision and eye care. Ophthalmologists are different from opticians and optometrists in the level of training they receive and when it comes to diagnosing and treating eye diseases. 

An ophthalmologist has also completed college with a minimum of eight years in medical training. Ophthalmologists are licensed to practice medicine and surgical procedures. They diagnose and treat all eye problems and diseases, conduct eye surgery, and prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct common vision problems. There are also many ophthalmologists who take part in research studies to help further identify the causes and treatment of eye diseases and other vision problems. 

Most ophthalmologists practice comprehensive or general ophthalmology, but there are some who specialize in a particular part of the eye, such as the retina or the muscles present around the eye.

Some of them specialize in treating a particular eye disease such as glaucoma. If ophthalmologists want to specialize further, then they would need to complete a fellowship program, which will take one or more years. They can perform both conventional and laser surgeries, but may also refer patients to other healthcare experts for further treatment. 

Which eye doctor do you need to see?

When eyes are healthy and would not need a specialized treatment plan, then the type of doctor an individual can choose to perform an eye examination would be a matter of personal choice.

Both optometrists and ophthalmologists can conduct routine eye examinations and both of them are also trained in terms of detecting, diagnosing, treating, and managing eye problems. For individuals who already have eye diseases, such as cataract, glaucoma, or macular degeneration, it would be important for them to seek eye care from an eye doctor who is professionally and highly trained in terms of monitoring and treating their condition.

Most optometrists offer medical assistance when it comes to some of the most common eye issues, such as dry eyes, eye infections, and certain chronic eye diseases including glaucoma. However, certain eye diseases or disorders are treated by ophthalmologists, especially when the patient's condition requires special care or surgery for treatment. 

When ophthalmologists and optometrists work as a team, it is called as co-management. In co-management cases, the primary eye doctor, which would likely be an optometrist, would refer patients to other specialists, such as an ophthalmologist, for further evaluation, diagnosis, and accurate treatment planning. Once the patient's condition is properly diagnosed and treated, the specialist would then send the patient back to the primary care doctor to carry out routine tests and monitor the condition. They may also treat the condition or carry out post-operative care that would mainly depend on the recommendations made by ophthalmologists. 

Caring for the Eyes

Our eyes are one of the main sense organs, so it is very important to take care of them. Apart from visiting an eye doctor for routine eye checkups, there are certain things that people can do help take care of their eyes, which include consuming a healthy and balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. It means consuming foods such as whole fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, etc. 

Maintaining a healthy weight is also important since obesity and being overweight are the major triggers of developing diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). When you are always out in the sun, make sure to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays. Avoid smoking since it can also increase the risk of developing age-related eye conditions, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.