Why an Ophthalmologist?

When you go to "get your eyes checked," you may wonder about the differences between the variety of eye care providers available. Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians all play an important role in providing eye care services. However, each group has different levels of training and expertise; you should be sure you are seeing the right provider for your condition or treatment.


An ophthalmologist—or “Eye MD”— is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care for every stage of life. Ophthalmologists are the only eye care specialists specially trained to provide the full spectrum of eye care—from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to complex and delicate eye surgery. Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research into the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision problems.


An optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and is licensed to practice optometry, not medicine. The practice of optometry traditionally involves examining the eye for the purpose of prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, screening vision to detect certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.


These technicians are trained to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual corrections. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.

Find out more about the difference between ophthalmologists and optometrists (PDF).