The Difference Between Opticians, Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

So, you plan to go have your eyes checked. Do you schedule an appointment with an optician, optometrist or an ophthalmologist? Though each specialty plays an important role in providing eye care, the level of training and expertise is different for each provider. Allow us to break it down for you:

man giving eye exam

  • Opticians

Opticians are specialists who fit patients for eyeglass lenses and frames and contact lenses. Opticians use prescriptions written by optometrists and ophthalmologists, but do not test or write prescriptions for vision correction. Opticians are not licensed to diagnose or treat eye diseases.

  • Optometrists

Optometrists are primary healthcare doctors of the eye, who provide vision care exams, looking for both health and vision concerns. They are able to prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct refractive errors. In addition, they’re able to prescribe certain medicines to correct eye problems and diseases.

  • Ophthalmologists

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have specialized experience in surgical and medical procedures. They are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. They can diagnose all eye diseases, perform eye surgery, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Basic Considerations

As you would when choosing any other doctor, consider the following:

  • Proximity. Is the doctor you’re selecting near to you?
  • Reputation. Sometimes a personal referral can help narrow down your choices. Ask family and friends if they have an eye doctor they would recommend.
  • Do you need a doctor with evening and weekend appointments? Be sure the office hours will work with your schedule.

The information contained above is intended to be educational in nature, does not constitute medical advice, and should not be relied on as a substitute for actual professional medical advice, care or treatment. If you have any vision, dental or other health related concerns, VBA encourages you to immediately contact your optometrist/ophthalmologist, dentist/orthodontist or any other competent, licensed, medical professional.