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Are an Optometrist & an Eye Doctor the Same?

optometrist at her eye clinic working on her laptop

Are an Optometrist & an Eye Doctor the Same?

Choosing the right eye doctor is imperative to receiving the right type of eye care for your needs. Different kinds of eye doctors specialize in different areas of treatment and assessment, so it is important to know the differences between them and which kind of eye doctor you should be seeking. For example, some eye doctors will be qualified to give routine eye exams but will not be able to perform laser eye surgery, while other doctors can do both.

What is an Eye Doctor?

An eye doctor is simply a doctor who is qualified in some way to provide services involving eye care and eye health. It is a general title that can apply to a variety of different types of eye doctors. The title of eye doctor encompasses the two main kinds of eye doctors: optometrists and ophthalmologists.

What is an Optometrist?

An optometrist is an eye doctor who has earned a Bachelor of Science and a Doctor of Optometry degree. They specialize in eye and vision care. Optometrists are typically the doctors who perform eye exams and disease management treatments at your local eye care offices. They also provide eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions.

Optometrist looking at camera while her patient gets ready to have her eye exam.

Differences Between Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, & Opticians

Optometrists

As mentioned above, optometrists are eye doctors who specialize in eye and vision care. Some of the duties optometrists can perform include:

  • Providing an eye exam to examine, assess, measure, and diagnose disorders and diseases within the human eye and visual system. Some of the diseases an optometrist may diagnose are glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
  • Recognize and co-manage conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and brain tumors.
  • Most can prescribe medications, but this can vary by province.
  • Remove foreign bodies from the eye and prescribe treatments for infections.
  • Provide referrals to secondary specialists for treatment of systemic disease or eye surgery when necessary.
  • Co-manage pre and post-operative care for laser vision correction.
  • Co-manage ocular diseases with ophthalmologists.
  • Conduct research, and promote the education and advancement of visual sciences.

Ophthalmologists

These eye doctors are specialists and surgeons for eye diseases and can perform the same duties as optometrists. To become an ophthalmologist, you need to complete a 4-year medical doctorate after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree. Ophthalmologists are:

  • More comprehensively trained in the medical care and management of eye health problems.
  • Trained and licensed to perform eye and vision surgery
  • Specialized in the medical and surgical treatment of specific eye diseases, or specialized in specific parts of the eye.

The biggest difference between an ophthalmologist and an optometrist is the qualification to perform eye surgeries.

Opticians

Opticians are not eye doctors. Opticians are trained through a college or university to fit vision aids, such as glasses and contact lenses, based on the prescription of a doctor of optometry or a physician. They do not have the qualifications to perform eye exams, surgeries, or write prescriptions.

Which Eye Doctor Should You Choose?

Depending on the severity of your eye care needs, you will need to see a different eye doctor. If you need a new prescription or think you are suffering from an eye disease, you should see an optometrist. If you need eye surgery, you will have to see an ophthalmologist.

If you are getting fit for new glasses or contact lenses after you have received a prescription, you do not need to seek out an eye doctor and can visit an optician instead.

Booking an Eye Examination, Fitting, or Surgery

Learn more about the different kinds of eye doctors by booking an eye examination, a fitting for new frames, or a consultation for surgery.

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