There are two main types of eye doctors: ophthalmologists and optometrists. Confused about which is which and who does what? Here's a look at how they're different.
Ophthalmologist: Total Eye Care
They went to medical school. After that, they had a 1-year internship and a residency of 3 or more years.
They offer complete eye care services:
- Vision services, including eye exams
- Medical eye care -- for conditions like glaucoma, iritis, and chemical burns
- Surgical eye care -- for trauma, crossed eyes, cataracts, glaucoma, and other problems
- Diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions related to other diseases, like diabetes or arthritis
- Plastic surgery -- to raise droopy eyelids or smooth out wrinkles
Optometrist (OD): Vision Care and Eye Care Services
They’re medical professionals, but they didn't go to medical school. After college, they spent 4 years in a professional program and got a doctor of optometry degree. Some optometrists get additional clinical training after optometry school. They focus on regular vision care and prescribe eyeglasses and contacts. They:
- Perform eye exams
- Treat conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism
- Prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Provide low-vision aids and vision therapy
- Diagnose eye conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and conjunctivitis
- Prescribe medications for certain eye conditions (in some states)
- Help with pre- or post-operative care for people who need surgery
Optometrists and ophthalmologists may work together to take care of you.
Optician: Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses
Opticians aren’t eye doctors and can’t give eye exams. They get a 1- or 2-year degree, certificate, or diploma. They fill the prescription your eye doctor gives you. They also:
- Check lens prescriptions
- Provide, adjust, and repair glasses, frames, and contact lenses
- Take facial measurements
- Help decide which type of lenses and frames will work best
- Order and check products, including contacts and eyeglass lenses
How to Choose an Eye Doctor
One type isn’t automatically better than the other. The right choice depends on your needs. The best eye doctor for you should be:
- Recommended by your doctor, friends, or family
- Appropriate to your vision problems; if you need routine eyeglass/contact lens care, you have many choices. If you have a specific medical eye condition, you may want to choose an ophthalmologist.
- Someone you like and trust