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Which Eye Doctor Do I Need?

Optometrist, ophthalmologist, optician—they all handle vision care, but who does what? If you’re ready to make your annual eye appointment and are confused about the type of provider you need to see, we can help.

Most people see an optometrist. This is the healthcare professional you’d see for routine eye exams and vision care. They perform eye exams, including refractions, and prescribe and fit you for glasses or contacts.

  • Optometrists (known as ODs or Doctors of Optometry) can detect and manage certain eye diseases (like diabetes and macular degeneration) and prescribe medications for some eye diseases. They are not medical doctors. If you don’t have any known serious eye conditions, an optometrist is your go-to.
  • Ophthalmologists are the doctors you get referred to for specific diagnoses or emergencies. They’re medical doctors who specialize in eye care so they can diagnose and treat all eye diseases and perform eye surgeries. They can also prescribe and fit glasses and contacts. You’d see an ophthalmologist to treat serious medical conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, or retinal problems.
  • Opticians are technicians who are trained to verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames. They don’t check your vision or perform any exams.

Sometimes these professionals work together in the same office. It’s not uncommon to visit your eye doctor (an optometrist) and get your prescription for glasses filled (by the optician) in the same place. It’s important to have regular, yearly eye exams even if you don’t wear corrective lenses. Often symptoms of other health conditions can show up during these routine exams.

Source:  VSP® Vision Care, “The Difference Between an Optometrist, Opthalmologist, and an Optician”


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