Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, and Opticians, Oh My! Which Eye Doctor to See, and Why

Sooner or later, we all call the eye doctor. You might find yourself squinting during a presentation in the board room, suspect a corneal scratch, be curious about LASIK, or just want to maintain your ocular health by getting a routine checkup. Everyone’s scenario is different, and there are many types of eye experts in the yellow pages. So whom do you call? Here’s the breakdown you need to decide for yourself.


Opticians are experts at corrective lenses and retail products for eyewear. Armed with a prescription from your eye doctor, an optician will listen to your needs and recommend the most flattering specs with the best type of lens or the most convenient contact lens type for your lifestyle. The optician will also train you on your hygiene regimen, choosing the best solution, and handling your contact lenses or glasses. Opticians do not receive medical training, but play a crucial support role for improving and maintaining your vision.


An optometrist is a primary eye doctor who examines your eyes with the intention of prescribing contacts, glasses, and medicines and of keeping your eyes problem free. Additionally, most optometrists are up to date on the latest vision-enhancement technology for athletes and hobbyists.

Since the optometrist is often the first line of defense for early detection of degenerative eye diseases, it’s wise to keep an active relationship with your optometrist by staying up to date on eye checkups, even if you have 20/20 vision.


Not sure who to call? Your ophthalmologist is a medical eye doctor who is ready for anything. While fully qualified to fit you for glasses or recommend a contact solution, ophthalmologists more often handle injuries, disorders, and infections. refractive ophthalmologists specialize in vision correction procedures but can treat you for all other issues associated with your eyes.

Having completed college plus at least eight years of further medical education, ophthalmologists are well prepared for careers in eye surgery and medicine. They can detect and treat any disorder, infection, or condition—from common refractive errors, allergies, and pink eye to advanced wet macular degeneration or ocular sports injuries. With twelve years of school, including three or more years of hospital-based residency training, plus ongoing industry education, there’s likely not much your ophthalmologist hasn’t seen.

With such a deep knowledge of overall health, ophthalmologists can even diagnose seemingly unrelated problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and some brain tumors in a routine eye exam. Correspondingly, they recognize how conditions in other parts of the body will affect your eye health.

If that weren’t impressive enough, your ophthalmologist’s mastery of diagnostic and surgical tools is unparallelled. Ask your doctor what his favorite diagnostic or surgical “tech tool” on site is, and why—chances are, he has an opinion he’d love to share with you!

Common Good

Regardless of their differences, every eye doctor team should be held to the high standard of AAAHC accreditation. As you’re deciding on an eye doctor, be sure this certification factors into your decision.

The best personal team of eye care professionals will include all three of these experts. Opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists all have an important role to play in maintaining your vision and your ocular health.

For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.

Image source: Flickr



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