Do you want to help people protect their eyesight and see as clearly as possible? If so, you may be considering a career as an optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist. Many people think of these three as types of eye doctors, but they are actually three distinct roles. It's important to understand the differences between them. Opticians are technicians who specialize in fitting glasses, contact lenses, and other vision correction devices. They don't diagnose or treat eye health conditions, but they are an essential part of the eye care team when corrective lenses are needed.
Optometrists are responsible for examining, diagnosing, and treating patients' eyes. They provide 85% of primary eye health care in the country. Ophthalmologists are eye doctors who perform medical and surgical treatments for eye conditions. They have completed college and have at least eight years of additional medical training. Ophthalmologists can diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgeries, and prescribe and adjust eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.
Some ophthalmologists specialize in a specific area of medical or surgical eye care to treat more complex or specific conditions in certain parts of the eye or in certain groups of patients. In some places, these healthcare providers include an ophthalmic nurse, who can help evaluate, treat, and care for people with certain eye conditions. Just as the study of genetics is changing the way medicine is practiced in other fields, these molecular advances are boosting ophthalmic treatments. Think of your optometrist as the primary care doctor for your eyes. The ophthalmologist is rather a specialist who can treat complex medical problems related to the eyes and perform surgeries or corrective procedures. Both must participate in continuing education every year. Most optometrists and ophthalmologists work in private offices, but some work in stores that sell glasses and in other settings.
It's important to know the difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, and an optician so you can make sure you're getting the right kind of care for your eyes.