Choosing The Right Eye Care Professional : Difference Between An Ophthalmologist, Optometrist And Optician


Choosing the right eye doctor is crucial for eye health and maintaining good eyesight. However, many patients don’t understand what different eye care providers do. Consequently, they are unsure which professional to visit when in need of eye care services.

There are three main types of eye care professionals. This article clarifies the difference between ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It also gives tips on how to choose the right eye care provider.


The key difference between an ophthalmologist and any other eye care professional is ophthalmologists are physicians. Their minimum training includes time in medical school, internship, and a residency.

These physicians have a license to practice medicine and surgery. They can, therefore, provide complete eye care services. They can handle all eye problems and conditions. Although they may choose to specialize, they can offer all the following services:

-Vision services as well as give eye exams.
-Medical eye care- Treating a variety of conditions such as iritis, glaucoma, and chemical burns.
-Surgical eye care- They can offer surgical solutions for trauma, cataracts, glaucoma, crossed eyes and other eye problems.
-Diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions closely related to other health concerns, such as arthritis and diabetes.
-Plastic surgery- Mainly to correct drooping eyelids and to smooth wrinkles.

Ophthalmologists often prefer to specialize in particular areas of medical or surgical eye care. They undergo further training in a fellowship program. Common subspecialty areas include neurology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics.


Optometrists are medical professionals who offer primary vision care. They are healthcare professionals but not physicians. After three or more years in college, they pursue a degree in optometry. Their license focuses on regular vision care, performing eye exams, prescribing and fitting eyeglasses and contacts. Optometrists do the following:

-Complete eye exams and vision tests
-Treat conditions such as nearsightedness and farsightedness
-Prescribe and dispense glasses and contact lenses
-Offer vision aids and therapy
-Diagnose conditions such as conjunctivitis, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration
-Provide pre and post-operative eye care.
-Prescribe drugs for certain eye conditions.
Your optometrist in Calgary Alberta may work together with your ophthalmologist to provide you with the best eye care.


Opticians are not eye doctors. They are technicians who cannot give eye exams or write prescriptions. They don’t diagnose or treat eye conditions. They rely on ophthalmologist and optometrist prescriptions to:
-Evaluate and verify lens prescriptions
-Design, fit, adjust or repair eyeglasses, frames and contact lenses
-Take facial measurements
-Help choose best lenses and frame types
-Order and check eye care devices

Choosing an Eye Doctor

Each type of eye doctor is well equipped to handle eye conditions within her training and experience. One type is not automatically better for you than the other. Your eye care needs should influence your choice. As a guide, the best eye doctor for you or your child should:
-Be recommended by your physician, and trusted friends, co-workers or family members.
-Be right for your vision problems. For instance if you require eyeglasses or contact lens care, you may choose between your optometrist in Calgary Alberta and an ophthalmologist. If you require plastic surgery, then an ophthalmologist would be the logical choice.

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