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    Optician vs optometrist vs ophthalmologist – what’s the difference?

    When you need an eye doctor, who do you call? Do you dial your local optometrist or do you look up an ophthalmologist near you? Maybe you just need an optometrist? Eye doctor terminology can be confusing, but Payne Glasses is here to help with a quick breakdown of different eye care specialists and what their titles really mean in a way that’s meaningful to you. Keep in mind that your eye care team can include all of these different professionals working together to help you maintain clear vision.


    If you’re noticing small changes to your vision or if you’re getting headaches when reading, an optician is probably going to be your first call. Opticians aren’t really eye doctors at all and they can’t give eye exams, but they do have a one or two-year certificate and can fill a prescription written by an eye doctor. They can also check your prescription, adjust or repair glasses, take facial measurements and provide recommendations on eyeglasses or contact lenses. They can also order and check products, making them an important partner in your eye care needs.


    An optometrist is an eye doctor with a Doctor of Optometry degree. Most have spent at least four years in a professional program and some have even had additional clinical training. Optometrists offer regular vision care, performing eye exams and vision tests. They can prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses and perform fit tests as well. They can also monitor some eye conditions, including those related to underlying diseases like diabetes. Dry eyes and common conditions like glaucoma are also within the optometrist wheelhouse. For more complicated eye conditions, your optometrist will likely refer you to an ophthalmologist.


    An ophthalmologist has gone to medical school and has completed a one-year internship and a three-year residency. They may have also done a fellowship or have completed additional training. An ophthalmologist can do everything an optometrist can, including perform eye exams, treat glaucoma, prescribe corrective lenses or contacts and perform fit tests. In addition to these basic eye care services, an ophthalmologist can also provide medical care for more complex eye conditions like iritis and chemical burns as well as surgical eye care for trauma, cataracts and other problems. An ophthalmologist is often tasked with diagnosing eye conditions related to other medical diseases as well as performing plastic surgery tasks related to the eye.

    One type of eye doctor isn’t necessarily better than the other and who you see for your eye care needs will depend on the condition of your eyes, your location and your preferences. You should choose an eye doctor that you like, that you trust and that comes recommended. If you need basic eye care, starting with an optometrist is a good idea. From there, they can refer you to an ophthalmologist if needed. Most likely, you’ll wind up with a team of eye care professionals working together to correct vision problems and manage any eye diseases you may develop. If your eye doctor prescribes eyeglasses, be sure to visit Payne Glasses for the best selection of styles for men and women. We also offer prescription sunglasses for UV protection and vision correction in one package.



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