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Which Eye Care Professional is for Me?

An eye care professional is an individual who provides a service related to the eyes or vision.

An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat.

Ophthalmologists complete 12 to 14 years of training and education including medical school and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. This advanced training allows ophthalmologists to diagnose and treat a wider range of conditions than optometrists and opticians. Typical training includes a four-year college degree followed by at least eight years of additional medical and surgical training.

An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery, and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders. Because they are medical doctors, ophthalmologists can sometimes recognize other health problems that aren’t directly related to the eye, and refer those patients to the right medical doctors for treatment.

Specialties may include:

  • Pediatric Ophthalmology
  • Neuro Ophthalmology
  • Ocular Oncology

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from vision testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after completing 2 to 4 years of college-level education, followed by four years of optometry school. They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing, and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases in some states. Many ophthalmologists and optometrists work together in the same offices, as a team.

Specialties may include:

  • Pediatric Optometry
  • Neuro Optometry
  • Low Vision Optometry

Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify, and fit eyeglass lenses, framescontact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual correction. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.

Orthoptists are the experts in diagnosing and treating disorders in eye movement and problems with how the eyes work together; called binocular vision. These can be caused by issues with the muscles around the eyes or defects in the nerves enabling the brain to communicate with the eyes.

They are trained to offer a range of non-surgical treatments, including eye patches, eye exercises, prisms, or glasses. They also commonly work with patients dealing with neurological conditions, such as stroke, brain tumors, or multiple sclerosis.  Orthoptists are uniquely trained to treat disorders such as amblyopia, genetic disorders, and complex pediatric and adult strabismus.

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