Optometrists, Opthamologists and Opticians....Oh my!
A common question among both healthcare professionals and the general public alike is, What is the difference between a doctor of optometry (optometrist), an ophthalmologist and an optician? While all three professions focus on eye care, in Canada and United States the levels of training, expertise and the core competencies are significantly different for each type of eye care provider.
strong>Optometrists (Doctors of Optometry). Optometrists, or Doctors of Optometry, are the primary healthcare provider when it comes to vision and eye health. An optometrist holds a Bachelor of Science degree or higher and a four-year doctor of optometry degree from an accredited university’s or college's school of optometry. Some optometrists also possess a residency at a university or college hospital. A optometrist is highly educated, clinically trained and licensed to deliver the best standard of comprehensive primary eye care. Your optometrist can:
- Provide an eye exam to examine, assess, measure and diagnose disorders and diseases within the human eye and visual system, such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration;
- Diagnose and co-manage systemic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and brain tumors;
- Prescribe corrective lenses;
- Fit and dispense eyewear, including glasses, sunglasses, contact lenses, safety eyewear and low-vision aids;
- Prescribe medications (this varies by province so ask your optometrist for details);
- Remove foreign bodies from the eye;
- Refer patients to secondary specialists, such as ophthalmologists, for treatment of systemic disease, or eye surgery;
- Co-manage pre- and post-operative care for laser vision correction; and Co-manage eye diseases with ophthalmologists
Ophthalmologists. Ophthalmologists are surgeons and specialists in diagnosing and treating eye disease. They possess a Bachelor Degree, four years of medical school at an accredited university and a residency in medical and surgical care of the eyes at an accredited university or college hospital. Ophthalmologists are secondary-level healthcare providers - patients usually require a referral from their optometrist to obtain an appointment for medical or surgical treatment, or a surgical consult.
Opticians. Opticians are the third member of the eye care team. In Canada, they are trained through a college program to fabricate and fit vision aids, such as glasses, based on the prescription of an optometrist. Opticians are licensed to dispense spectacles, contact lenses and other optical aids. They are not qualified to assess, diagnose, or treat eye conditions, nor can they check or write prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Schedule an an eye exam with your optometrist today!