Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, Optician: What’s The Difference?

Woman, visible from the eyebrows up, holding a pair of eyeglasses above her head

Time For An Eye Exam! What Kind Of Eye Doctor Should You See?

Have you ever wondered if you should see an ophthalmologist, optometrist, or optician for your eye care needs? Depending on your situation, you may benefit from visiting any combination of these specialists. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between each one, so you can plan your next step in achieving optimal eye health and vision clarity. For standard eye exams and eyeglasses or contact lenses, schedule an appointment with Rochester Optical today!


 Infographic summarizing the differences between an optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician


Banner to schedule an eye exam at Rochester Optical

Ophthalmologists: Medical Eye Doctors That Provide Complete Eye Care Services

Official Title: M.D. (Doctor of Medicine)
Education: Bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, one-year postgraduate internship, three-year residency, optional one- to two-year subspecialty fellowship

Ophthalmologists receive the highest level of education and training among these three specialties. In addition to common eye care services like exams, they are able to offer medical eye care for complex conditions, perform eye surgery for cosmetic or medically necessary reasons, and diagnose and treat eye conditions resulting from primary conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis.

If you have a sudden urgent medical eye problem, require eye surgery, have a complex eye condition, disease, or infection, or you have sustained an eye injury that requires medical attention (beyond a small scratch or irritation), make an appointment with an ophthalmologist.

Optometrists: Primary Eye Care Providers For Eye Exams, Vision Correction, And Basic Care

Official Title: O.D. (Doctor of Optometry) – not an M.D.
Education: Bachelor’s degree not required, four years of optometry school, no required postgraduate training

Optometrists are your go-to source for standard eye exams, basic care for minor symptoms, and vision correction through eyeglasses and contact lenses. They determine your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription and suggest over-the-counter treatments for common eye problems, such as dryness and irritation. Depending on the state, they may be able to write prescriptions for eye medications to treat pink eye and other minor eye infections.

Go to an optometrist for annual or non-urgent eye exams, updated prescription lenses, contact lens trials and fittings, vision tests and concerns, general eye care products, and eyewear accessories. They can help you choose eye drops, contact lens solution, and even provide specialty products like non-slip balms to keep glasses in place. At Rochester Optical, our optometrists can provide all of the eye care services that most people need to maintain healthy eyes and clear vision. Make an appointment or visit our retail store to meet our team and browse our designer and locally made eyeglasses!

Opticians: Corrective Lens And Eyewear Technicians For Prescription Processing And Fittings

Official Title: Optometric Technician
Education: High school diploma or equivalent, on-the-job training, license required by some states

Opticians do not participate in the medical care of your eyes, but they are crucial players in your vision correction. After your eye exam, opticians will help you pick out glasses that flatter your face shape and work with your lifestyle. They have a great understanding of the eyewear available for in-store purchase, as well as knowledge of online options that can be ordered for pickup. An optician can quickly help you find eyeglasses of a particular style, shape, color, material, or brand.

More important than the look of your eyeglasses, opticians make sure your lenses are correctly aligned within the eyeglass frames to provide proper vision correction. They also ensure your frames fit securely and comfortably. If you love a pair of glasses that just aren’t staying on — or are staying on a little too well — an optician can make adjustments to help your favorite option work for you.

Ready For An Eye Exam, New Eyeglasses, Or Contact Lenses?

At Rochester Optical, we provide a wide range of eye care options to ensure your eyes perform at their best. If you have a non-emergency eye care need, call our office to set up an appointment. Our optometrists can help you decide between eyeglasses and contact lenses, monitor vision quality and eye health, recommend treatments for common eye problems, and answer any additional questions you may have.

Staying on top of your eye health is the number-one way to maintain optimal ophthalmic function (say that three times!) and catch potential complications early. Contact Rochester Optical today for professional, high-quality eye care for you and your family!