Eye Doctor Types
There are really three eye care professionals to keep in mind when it comes to your eyes. Unfortunately, they all begin with the letter “O” and sound similar: optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician. The first two, optometrist and ophthalmologist, are eye doctors. The third, optician, is not an eye doctor, but is often no less important in helping you to see clearly.
An optometrist is an eye doctor with the degree doctorate of optometry. The profession of the optometrist grew out of the study of optics and vision correction through optical means, however over the years, the scope of practice of the optometrist has broadened to include medical eye care through pharmacological and other therapies. In general, an optometrist is best thought of as your primary care eye doctor, although many optometrists do specialize in one area of eye care, such as complex contact lens fittings, vision therapy, ocular disease treatment, or other areas.
An ophthalmologist (note that the spelling is ophthalmologist not, ophthamologist, as it is often misspelled) is an eye doctor with a doctorate of medicine or osteopathy who then elects to specialize in eye care. The profession of ophthalmologist has its roots in the practice of medicine and surgical training. In the past, these eye doctors did not generally use optical means to correct vision, but like the optometrist, they have also broadened their scope of practice to include eyeglasses and contact lenses. An ophthalmologist is best thought of as an eye surgeon, though again, you may find these eye doctors specializing in a variety of areas similar to optometrists.
An optician is not an eye doctor, but their work is often the final piece in helping you to see clearly. They are specialists in the selection and adjustment of spectacle frames and lenses. It is important to note that the power of a lens changes depending on the angle, position, and distance from which it sits from the visual axis. Therefore, without a good optician to adjust and fit eyewear to your face, the precision and accuracy of the prescription written by your eye doctor is lost.