November 28, 2018 Eye Associates

What are the differences between Ophthalmologists, Optometrists and Opticians?

Whether it’s your first eye exam or your twentieth, it is important to see the correct eye professional for your needs. Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians all play important roles in patient eye care, though each has a different level of training and expertise. In general, ophthalmologists are medical specialists who can perform surgery; optometrists are eyecare professionals who can treat most vision issues; and opticians fit you for eyeglasses or contacts.

Here is an overview to clarify the primary differences.


An ophthalmologist is a physician (M.D. or D.O.) who has completed four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and at least four years of hospital-based residency focused on surgical remedies to treat eye diseases. An ophthalmologist is qualified to diagnose, treat and manage all eye and vision conditions and perform surgery on the eyes.

Some ophthalmologists are subspecialists in eye care areas such as pediatrics, refractive surgery, neuro-ophthalmology and plastic surgery of the area around the eyes. Many ophthalmologists also conduct scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and disorders.


An optometrist is a medical professional who, after undergraduate school, completed four years of specialized eye care study at an accredited optometry college, receiving a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. While they did not attend medical school, optometrists are state-licensed to examine the eyes, determine the presence of vision problems and disease, and prescribe eyeglasses and contacts.

Optometrists treat eye conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism; can diagnose vision problems like cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and conjunctivitis; and can prescribe medications for certain conditions such as pink eye, allergies and glaucoma. Though an optometrist does not perform surgery, he or she often collaborates with an ophthalmologist to provide pre- and post-op care to eye-surgery patients.


Opticians are not eye doctors and do not perform eye exams. They are technicians who have completed a certificate program and can fill prescriptions for eye doctors. They are trained to provide, fit, adjust and repair glasses, frames and contact lenses.

The best eye care professional for you should be:

  • Recommended by family, friends or a doctor
  • Appropriate to your specific vision needs
  • Someone you feel comfortable with and trust

The 10 Eye Associates optometrists across our seven Johnson County office locations are qualified to treat all routine eye care needs and to diagnose situations requiring referral to an M.D. We value our long-term family relationships and are proud of our satisfied patient testimonials. Contact us to have an Eye Associates professional take care of your eye health!

The information in this article should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.

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