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Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, Optician – What’s the difference?


Last week, I read Dr. Deshong’s article with some amusement and much interest. It reminded me of a popular radio program here in this country. It also reminded me of the fact that many people still do not have a clue about the difference between the ophthalmologist, the optometrist and the optician. Even some medical professionals do not know the difference between the three O’s.{{more}}

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who is qualified to treat general medical and ophthalmic conditions. There are many procedures, including surgery as well as various diagnostic tests, which are carried out exclusively by him or her.

Here again is a summary of who does what:

The Ophthalmologist has the degree Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and is a primary and secondary, medical/surgical eye care provider. He/she has completed four to six years of medical school and at least three years, (often more), of residency and internships relating to the diagnosis and treatment, including surgery, of diseases of the eye. Some ophthalmologists specialize in treating very specific eye problems. These include the treatment of retina and corneal diseases. Ophthalmologists may also perform intricate surgical procedures including cataract removal and crystalline lens transplants and various repairs and therapies utilizing lasers. In some locales, they also provide vision examinations and may dispense contact lenses and eyeglasses. Ophthalmologists may practice as individuals in private or group practices and may be associated with medical clinics.

The Optometrist is a primary vision care specialist. He/she has a four-year non-medical program (OD). The course of study includes basic anatomy and pharmacology and specific courses relating to the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the eyes and vision system. Since at least the 1970’s, the education of optometrists has included the diagnosis of eye health problems. An optometrist can examine your eyes and related structures for health and vision disorders and treats vision problems with spectacle and contact lenses and exercises. In many locales, optometrists dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses. In St. Vincent and most other countries, they cannot perform eye surgery and treat certain diseases.

The optician is a person who has trained in the skills necessary to grind and shape glass and plastic materials to the optical powers, as prescribed by an O.D. or M.D . Education consists of trade school and apprenticeships. An optician may hold various certifications and licenses, which vary by state and country of practice. An optician is also the person who operates a facility, which dispenses eyeglasses and other accessories. In most countries, St. Vincent and most elsewhere, they cannot examine the eyes.

If a patient requires more than glasses, the optician or optometrist is mandated to refer to the ophthalmologist. This is important, otherwise potentially sight threatening cases could be left untreated.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: [email protected]

Tel: 784 456-1210