The terms optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician can be confusing. So, we thought we would clear up the difference (OK, bad optical humor) between the “Three O’s.”
What is an Optometrist?
The American Optometric Association defines an optometrist as an independent primary health care professional for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify systemic conditions affecting the eye. Optometrists complete four years of undergraduate education, four years of professional education at an accredited optometry school, and may complete an optional residency in a specific area of practice, such as advanced contact lenses, ocular diseases, vision therapy, or low vision.
Most people require examination by an optometrist each year if they wear contact lenses, or every couple of years if they just wear glasses. If an optometrist finds a dangerous or progressive eye condition or disease, such as macular degeneration, depending on the stage, they may treat or monitor the patient. If the condition requires surgery, they send their patients to an ophthalmologist.
What is an Ophthalmologist?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines an ophthalmologist as: a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists are trained in all aspects of eye surgery and disease management, spend four years in professional school, and another four years in residency. Some ophthalmologists complete specialized fellowship training following residency, such as cornea, retina, glaucoma, pediatrics, oculoplastics, or neuro-ophthalmology.
What is an Optician?
The third O is an optician. Opticians are technicians who are trained to verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames. The optician is your best friend to ensure that your glasses prescription is going to work perfectly when translated to a pair of glasses. Always make sure that when picking out your glasses, you are working with a qualified and experienced optician and not someone who was just hired from Starbucks last week.
In practical terms, most people need an optometrist and an optician to handle all of their eye and vision needs. When surgery is required, that is when the ophthalmologist is engaged. All of the Three O’s are interested in your eye health and overall physical health. The most important piece is to make sure that you are examined by a licensed professional every few years. When was your last eye examination?