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What’s The Difference Between Optometrist, Ophthalmologist & Optician?

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Dr. Marc Weinstein

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The eyes are arguably one of the most complex systems of our bodies, so it’s only fitting that taking care of them is serious business. Did you know there are multiple professionals that specialize in just the eyes? With how similar their names all sound, you might have mistaken one for the other as you were on the hunt for a new eye doctor. Or, was just puzzled altogether as to who you should see. Read along for a quick guide to help break down each expert.

What is an optometrist?

The person who you regularly see for an eye exam? That is typically an optometrist. They are a doctor that specializes in eye care, who can examine, diagnose, write prescriptions for and perform minor procedures on your eyes such as laser eye surgery. Simply put, they help manage the day-to-day maintenance and care of your vision.

After they complete an undergraduate education, optometrists are required to fulfill four years of optometry school in order to receive their doctor of optometry degree.

What is an ophthalmologist?

More serious eye needs call for an ophthalmologist. They are medical eye doctors who can perform both major and minor surgery, as well as all the responsibilities of an optometrist, such as routine eye exams.

Unlike optometrists, an aspiring ophthalmologist must complete medical school plus residency to begin practicing. Some will specialize in a certain part of the eye or an eye disease, like glaucoma, or pediatric eye care, which requires additional training.

What is an optician?

Opticians help fill the prescriptions of glasses, contacts and other eyewear made by optometrists and ophthalmologists. They cannot perform eye exams, diagnose eye diseases or write those prescriptions themselves, however, they are experts in fitting, measuring and adjusting glasses to each individual, in addition to making recommendations on what vision products or devices could best work for you.

Each state has different qualifications to become an optician. Generally, one must complete an apprenticeship or an associate’s program and obtain a state license and/or a certificate.

Which eye professional do I need?

The first line of defense to any eye problems you may have is to go to your primary eye doctor, or an optometrist. They can help diagnose the issue and either provide treatment, or recommend you to an ophthalmologist who can better help you.

For all your prescription glasses, sunglasses and contacts needs, an optician will have all the answers to have you seeing, feeling and looking your best. If you’re purchasing eyewear online at 39DollarGlasses.com, there is a plethora of resources to help you make the right decision as well as a worry-free warranty if you are unhappy with your purchase for any reason. And if you need further advice, don’t hesitate to contact us for more expert advice.