Alamo Optometry Blog

June 7, 2010

Three O’s (Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, Optician)…What’s the Difference?

Filed under: Blog,Educational — Tags: , , — gkblog @ 11:53 am

The Three O’s (Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, Optician)…What’s the Difference?

(As appeared in Alamo Today, June 2010, pg.  29)

I am consistently asked what the difference is between an optometrist, an ophthalmologist, and an optician, and which one I am.  There are a lot of differences between us, but also much in common.  I will delve into the training and professional services each one provides.

An optometrist (O.D.) tends to be the primary health care professional for the eyes.  An optometrist must complete a college degree, and then attend a 4-year optometry program.  To be licensed, there are several national exams that are administered to ensure proper training and competency.  Optometrists can examine, diagnose, and treat disorders of the eye and the surrounding structures.  When you schedule an exam at our office you will receive a comprehensive evaluation which will test and evaluate vision and necessary prescription glasses and/or contact lenses, binocular vision status, glaucoma screening, neurological status as it relates to the eyes, and eye health evaluation of the front part of the eye and retinal evaluation through dilation.  For vision enhancement, an optometrist can prescribe glasses, contact lenses, low visions aids, or have a LASIK consultation.

As state laws do vary, what medical conditions optometrists can treat does change from state to state.  Eye conditions such as allergies, conjunctivitis (pink eye), floaters, and styes are treated often and are seen in the office regularly.  Even some more difficult conditions such as foreign body removal, corneal ulcers, and retinal co-management of diabetes and hypertension are done often. Since optometrists do not do surgery, there are some conditions that require an ophthalmology consultation.  Some of these include cataract and retinal surgery, and those are made after careful examination and patient education.

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has specialized in the eyes.  They have graduated from medical school and then completed residencies in their chosen specialty like retina, glaucoma, and cornea.  As in optometry, there are national examinations that must be passed to practice and to specialize in a chosen field.  Most ophthalmologists do not do primary care exams.  As a majority, they conduct specialized care like and surgery for LASIK, cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal disease.  Most ophthalmologist offices that conduct primary care exams are done by optometrists.  Of course that does vary from office to office, but is the case most of the time.  A comprehensive examination conducted by an ophthalmologist and optometrist are very similar.  The same tests are conducted and an eye health evaluation will be conducted.  Obviously, if a patient is being referred for a particular condition (e.g. glaucoma) specialized tests will be run that would not normally be done on the routine patient.

In comparison to an optometrist and ophthalmologist, an optician is not a doctor.  Opticians attend school to learn about optics, glasses, lenses, etc. and are then tested by their licensing board.    Most opticians are certified, but some are not.  Opticians are trained in frame selection, dispensing, adjusting, and repairing.  They are also valuable for optimal lens selection and measurements depending on the prescription and type of frame.  If an office has a lab on site, they can edge, tint, and finish the lenses to fit your frame.  Training and experience can vary for opticians.  The more training and experience an optician has, the better the quality and accuracy of the prescription glasses made.  Our certified optician does most of these tasks in our office.

Even though all optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians are associated with vision, their function within that field varies widely.   Hopefully these definitions will help you understand who we all are and what we do.  Our full-service optometry office conducts comprehensive exams for all ages and looks forward to helping you with all of your eye care and vision needs.

Dr. K. at Alamo Optometry is your hometown eye doctor for outstanding service, vision care, and designer eyewear.  He can be reached at 820-6622 or visit his office at 3201 Danville Blvd., Suite 165 in Alamo.  Visit our website at: and become a fan on our Alamo Optometry Facebook page.

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