Eye Health | Optical Centre Smartbuyglasses UK

What Are the Differences Between Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist vs. Optician?

Eye-health is important and choosing the right eye doctor plays an important role in maintaining your eye health. There are two main types of eye doctors: optometrists and ophthalmologists. If you are confused about the role of each one and what they can do to help, here is our guide explaining the key differences between them.

What is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical and surgical eye doctor (an eye MD). Compared to optometrists and opticians, ophthalmologists have the highest level of training and are highly skilled in what they can diagnose and treat. They can be specialized in a specific area, meaning they have more in-depth training and knowledge in order to cure more complex and specific conditions.

They provide the following services:

  • Vision services: perform eye exams, prescribe and fit eyeglasses to correct vision problems
  • Diagnose and prescribe medications to treat eye diseases such as glaucoma, iritis and chemical burns 
  • Perform eye surgeries for trauma, cataracts, glaucoma, etc.
  • Plastic surgery 

What is an Optometrist?

An optometrist is an eye doctor who gives vision care and routine eye care services. As they are licensed to practice optometry, their primary responsibility is to provide vision care services such as eye exams and vision tests as well as to detect and prescribe medications for certain eye diseases. Optometrists are not trained or licensed to perform surgical procedures to treat eye diseases.

They provide the following services:

  • Vision care services: eye exams, vision tests and routine eye care 
  • Prescribing and fitting prescription eyeglasses as well as prescription contact lenses and other visual aids to correct refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism
  • Examine the eyes for problems and provide medical treatments
  • Provide post-surgical eye care and vision therapy

What is an Optician?

An optician is not an eye doctor so they cannot perform eye exams. An optician is a  customer care representative in a vision care store or in an optometrist’s office. They are trained to design, verify and fit the frames and lenses of eyeglasses as well as contact lenses to correct vision problems. They are not permitted to diagnose eye conditions, give medications or perform surgeries to treat eye diseases.

They provide the following services:

  • Fit and sell eyeglasses or contact lenses based on the prescription written by the optometrist/ophthalmologist 
  • Provide, adjust and repair glasses, frames and contact lenses
  • Provide information related to types of lenses and frames to help you decide which works best for you

How to Choose an Eye Doctor?

The type of eye doctor you choose is largely based on your eye condition. 

If your eyes are healthy and you do not need any prescription medications or surgical treatment, you can go to either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist as they can perform routine eye checks. 

If you have common eye problems such as dry eyes or eye infections, you can seek out medical treatment from an optometrist.

If your eye problems are more severe such as glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts, you need a highly trained and skilled eye specialist as they have the ability to monitor and treat your condition. In this case, an ophthalmologist is your ideal choice. The ophthalmologist may be required to perform surgery if needed to improve your eye condition. 

Last but not least, referrals are often a good idea when you are choosing an eye doctor. You can look for recommendations from friends and family as it can help you to find a competent eye specialist who you trust.


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