The Difference Between an Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, and Optician

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You check your calendar and realize it’s time to see an eye doctor. Setting up the eye appointment is the easy part but knowing what type of eye care professional you may need can be confusing. To help clear the confusion, we’re breaking down the difference between an optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician.

differences between an optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician

1. What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is typically the most common point for comprehensive vision and eye care. That includes the refraction and dispensing aspect of your care, which many think of as “getting glasses.”

Optometrists can also play a key role in the detection and management of certain diseases in the eye, such as diabetes and macular degeneration. Finally, these eye doctors also rehabilitate certain conditions, like lazy eye.

Optometrists make up a majority of the VSP network and can be identified by the letters “OD” behind their name, which stand for Doctor of Optometry.

2. What is an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in all aspects of eye care including the diagnosis, treatment, and surgery of eye diseases and disorders.

Typically, someone will have their primary eye care with an optometrist and then be referred to an ophthalmologist for specific diagnoses or emergent care, if needed.

If you’re trying to find an ophthalmologist, look for the letters “MD” or “DO” behind their name to signify they are a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy.

3. What is an optician?

An optician is a specialist in fitting eyeglasses and making lenses to help correct your vision problems. They do not perform any visual acuity or medical exams. You’ll likely visit an optician after seeing an optometrist who performs your eye exam.

Each of these professionals brings a different aspect of care to your overall health based on your specific needs. If you have more questions about who you need to see, you can always call your VSP network eye doctor’s office and they can help you set up an appointment. The most important thing to remember is to have your eyes checked annually by an eye care professional.

Do you need an eye exam, but don’t have vision insurance? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a vision plan you can buy on your own. A VSP Individual Vision Plan includes an eye exam, an allowance for glasses or contacts, and more.

This is a guest post by VSP employee Jessica Caswell. 

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