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Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optician: Understanding the Differences.

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You are starting to have eye problems – blurred vision, eyestrain, headaches – and your insurance says it will pay for an ophthalmologist, optometrist or an optician, but what is the difference? Which eyecare professional should you look to for help with your particular vision problems? Take a look below to decide.


The term optometrist traces back to the Greek words optos (seen or vision) and metria (one who measures). Literally, that would make an Optometrist one who measures vision, but a modern Optometrist does far more than just measure your vision. They provide primary vision care, varying from vision testing and correction to the treatment, management and diagnosis of sight changes.

An optometrist is not a medical doctor, but receives a doctorate degree in optometry (OD). They are principally licensed to practice vision tests and eye exams, dispensing and prescribing corrective lenses, identifying different eye abnormalities, and advising medications for various eye problems and diseases.


Ophthalmologist comes from the Greek words ophthalmos (literally “the seeing”) and logia (study) making an ophthalmologist one who studies seeing. This includes both the diagnostic and treatment domains of the optometrist as well as deeper studies into eye science and more advanced medical treatments.

An ophthalmologist is licensed to practice surgery and medicine, and treats all types of eye diseases, prescribes fits contact lenses and eyeglasses to rectify eyesight problems. A lot of ophthalmologists also participate in scientific research on the causes and treatments for vision disorders and eye diseases.   


The word originated from the late 17th century, and comes from the French word opticien, and from medieval Latin word optica, meaning optics. An optician is a technician within the eyecare realm who is trained to design, verify, and fit contact lenses, eyeglass lenses and frames and other appliances meant to correct eyesight. An optician is someone you visit when you’ve already visited the optometrist and need to have a prescription filled.

The optician will use prescriptions that ophthalmologists or optometrists have supplied, but they themselves do not provide vision screening or write prescriptions for eye wear correction.

The optician has a fun job because not only do they prepare the appliances that help you see better, they combine this talent with the fashion industry. Opticians are able to design and help you choose fashionable lenses that fit well on your face and complement your features. Should you require contact lenses, the technician will adjust how they fit in your eyes.

It may not seem an important job, but being an optician is a vital part of the world of optometry. Without these professionals, both your new eyeglasses and contact lenses would not fit properly, thus doing you a disservice by even wearing them. Can you imagine wearing contact lenses that feel uncomfortable in your eyes?


An optometrist is a doctor of optometry and not a medical doctor. Anyone who has completed at least three years of school in an accredited higher learning institution is eligible for the additional four years of optometry school. On the other hand, ophthalmologists can be medical doctors, but they require several years of extra training in ophthalmology specifically. Lastly, an optician does not necessarily require long, intensive years of study but do require an optical degree or a certain number of hours in the supervised internship.

Written by Total Focus

At Total Focus Optometry, we’ve spent the last 70 years building meaningful relationships with our patients and their families. From routine eye exams to contact lens fittings we offer our patients a variety of services to meet their eye care needs.

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