Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, & Optician: What's The Difference?

Is it about time to schedule your next routine eye exam? When it's time to get your eyes checked, your local optometrist can provide you with personalized care, ensuring you walk away feeling confident and comfortable about your ocular health.

Optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians each play a part in providing top-notch eye care services to individuals and families. However, 58% of people don't know the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. 

So, what are the distinctions between these three types of vision experts?

At a Glance

  • An optometrist provides comprehensive eye and vision care to patients. This often involves performing eye exams, prescribing glasses and contact lenses, and providing general medical eye care, which can include prescribing oral and topical medications to treat eye disease.
  • An ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and perform eye surgery.
  • Opticians are trained to fit eyeglass lenses and frames that help correct vision problems.

Keep reading to learn more!

See Related: How Often Should Adults Get An Eye Exam?

What Is an Optometrist?

An optometrist is your go-to healthcare professional for anything related to eye care. Optometrists use their knowledge, skills, and expertise to provide excellent service and care to individuals and families. Optometrists are licensed to give eye exams, write prescriptions, and examine, diagnose, and treat eye diseases. 

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How Long Does It Take to Become an Optometrist?

Optometrists receive their education and training at a college of optometry rather than a medical school. 

To obtain their Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree, optometrists first get a four-year undergraduate degree in science, pre-med, or a related field and pass the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). Next, they complete four years of professional education at a college of optometry before taking the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) exams and applying for a license to practice optometry.

What Is the Role of an Optometrist?

Most of the time, if you're visiting your local clinic for a comprehensive eye exam, you'll be seen by an optometrist. Optometrists have many key roles, which include:

  • Giving vision tests and eye exams
  • Prescribing medications
  • Prescribing corrective lenses
  • Identifying eye diseases
  • Treating common ocular health issues like eye infections and ocular allergies
  • Offering vision therapy

Optometrists are recognized as physicians under Medicare. They are also fully licensed and trained to detect eye abnormalities and diseases, such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. By taking care of an individual’s ocular wellness, doctors of optometry can help detect and diagnose other conditions, allowing you to achieve optimal health.  

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Reasons to See an Optometrist

Even if you think your vision is impeccable, an optometrist will help you maintain excellent eye health for years to come. You don't need to wear glasses or contact lenses to visit your local eye clinic for a quick check-up every year or so.

Annual eye exams help detect early signs of eye disease. Many eye conditions aren’t noticeable until they’ve progressed significantly. A trip to your eye doctor is also the perfect time to update your prescription. Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses already, vision loss is normally gradual and unnoticeable in everyday life. 

It's about time to schedule an appointment with your optometrist if you:

  • Already wear or think you might need corrective lenses
  • Haven't had an eye exam in over two years
  • Have a family history of vision loss or eye disease
  • Take prescribed medications that may affect your eyesight
  • Have symptoms like eye pain, dry eyes, vision changes, blurry vision, double vision, floaters, or flashes of light

What’s the Difference Between an Optometrist and Ophthalmologist?

Optometrists are trusted experts in all things eye care. They can examine, diagnose, and treat your eyes, helping you feel confident in your vision. 

An ophthalmologist is a type of eye doctor who performs eye surgery and other medical procedures on patients. Ophthalmologists attend medical school, which is followed by a one-year internship and a three-year residency. Oftentimes, that's followed by another one to two years of fellowship. 

In addition to general eye care services, ophthalmologists can do the following:

  • Provide medical care for conditions like glaucoma, iritis, and chemical burns
  • Surgical eye care for various conditions
  • Diagnose and treat eye diseases related to other illnesses, like diabetes or arthritis
  • Plastic surgery for cosmetic defects

There are several ophthalmology specialties, including pediatric ophthalmology, neuro-ophthalmology, and ocular oncology.

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What Is an Optician?

An optician works alongside optometrists to provide quality, comprehensive eye care services to patients. Opticians help fit eyeglass lenses and frames for individuals using the prescriptions provided by optometrists.

Opticians help patients choose the right eyeglasses for their vision and lifestyle needs. They not only help find frames that fit their face shape and match the customer’s style but also alter or adjust the frames so they feel completely comfortable.

At Oculus Eyecare, our team of opticians provides expert consultations, on-site adjustments and repairs, and personal styling for individuals and families. We understand the immense importance of eyewear that is unique and built to last. Our large collection of gorgeous eyeglasses are sourced from independent designers and artisans who create each item to the highest degree of quality and craftsmanship.

However, it’s not just the unparalleled artistry and robust durability that set our eyeglasses apart. Each set of luxury frames features a timeless design and distinctive style meant to elevate your day-to-day life. 

Take, for example, our collection of luxury eyewear from Jacques Marie Mage. These exclusive frames are interwoven with a tremendous amount of personality and style, reflecting a modern take on a timeless look.

Final Thoughts

Your optometrist is the specialist you need to see for all your eye care and vision needs. If you're ready to see and be seen in a new way, schedule your appointment here.

Keep Reading: 6 Reasons Why Designer Eyewear Is Worth It


Oculus Eyecare is Seattle’s premier optometry practice and optical boutique for those looking to see and be seen in a new way. Located in South Lake Union on Denny Way, Oculus Eyecare offers comprehensive eye care services and exams for individuals and families in Seattle. Click here to schedule an appointment or a personal styling session. To stay connected and learn more, follow us on FacebookInstagram, and X/Twitter.


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