Eye Doctors: Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

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:

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:

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

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on October 03, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Ophthalmology Medical Library (Medem): "Eye Care Facts and Myths: A Closer Look."

Cleveland Clinic: "Eye Care Specialists."

Prevent Blindness America: "Who's Who in Eye Care."

Horizon BCBSNJ: "Making Healthcare Work: Glossary."

Vision Channel: "What Is an Optometrist?"

All About Vision: "Find an Eye Doctor - Optometrist or M.D."

All Allied Health Schools: "Become an Optician: Optician Jobs, Optician Schools."

About.Com: "Finding the Right Eye Doctor."

American Academy of Ophthalmology: "eyeSmart: Know Your Eyecare Team."

Prevent Blindness America: "Who's Who in Eyecare?"

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