Different eye care professionals explained

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Types of Eye Care Professionals

Introduction to Eye Professionals

An eye care professional can be defined as anyone who takes care of human vision. There are three main types of eye care professionals. They are opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. Of the three, only the ophthalmologist is qualified to be a doctor in the eye care field as it is the only eye care professional position that requires a degree from a medical university. Even though you must go to university for optometry, a medical degree is not required.


An optician dispenses and fits glasses contacts and other vision aids as prescribed by the ophthalmologists and optometrists. They also make sure the plastic arms and nose pieces of the spectacles that are prescribed fit properly. Not all opticians can fit contact lenses as a special course and a license is needed to do that.

In the United States the special license required to fit contact lenses is called an associate optician's degree. This is bestowed after the optician has completed a one to two year course and passed a licensing examination. Opticians who wish to sell contact lenses must take certification to fit contact lenses every three years


An optometrist conducts eye exams and then prescribes glasses and contact lenses. They can also sent you to an ophthalmologist if you require surgery or laser treatments. In some states in the United States the optometrist is allowed to prescribe medicines for to treat eye problem. However their main role is to provide routine care.

Optometrists are also required to have more extensive education and knowledge about vision in order to get a license to practice. In the United States more extensive as well as higher degrees to get a license. In the U.S., to obtain a Doctor of Optometry degree one must go to college for three years followed by four years in an accredited school. Both a written and examination by a board must be passed in order to acquire a license.

Optometrists are regulated by the state and have to renew their licenses every three years.


Ophthalmologists are correctly also called eye doctors, as they are medical doctors who have a specialty in eye care. Eye doctors diagnose diseases of the eye, brain and areas related to eye anatomy such as the lachrymal system.

Ophthalmology practice includes treating eye diseases and injuries, eye examination, prescribing medications and performing surgeries for vision correction, glaucoma and other disorders. Ophthalmologists use both invasive and non-invasive techniques to perform their tasks and often also use lasers.

To qualify as an ophthalmologist, the practitioner has to have a three-year degree followed by four years in a medical school, a one-year internship and then three years of residency in a hospital. Before they can practice as ophthalmologists, they must pass an examination by a medical board.

The Difference between Ophthalmologists and Optometrists

It is crucial to know the difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist you’re your own health’s sake. Ophthalmologists are university and hospital trained doctors and surgeon that can perform surgeries such as cornea replacement, retinal attachment and laser refractive surgery.

Optometrists, on the other hand, are not medical doctors. They are trained in the prescription of optics and also in the anatomy of the eye but they are not licensed to practice any medicine. An optometrist’s purpose is to prescribe both glasses and contact lenses. Optometrists may also receive advanced training so that they can prescribe people with difficult or irregular vision problems as is the case when grinding prescription lenses for astigmatism.

Both ophthalmologists and optometrists practice preventive eye care by screening your eyes for common eye disorders. Ophthalmologists may refer patients with compromised vision to the optometrist to get glasses but continue to treat the disease with medication or surgery. Optometrists may refer the patient to the ophthalmologist for advanced treatments such as surgery or medication prescriptions.

In some of the United States, optometrists prescribe medications for certain eye diseases like glaucoma, they cannot perform corrective surgery.

Both opthamalogists and optometrists are equally important when it comes preserving your eyesight. Their practices overlap somewhat and to the extent that in some countries optometrists are lobbying to have some of the same practicing rights as the ophthalmologists.

There are also ophthalmologists that are also opticians or optometrists that can provide an integrated style of eye care services. This can be a very convenient option for those who want to get their eyeglasses or contacts on the same day.