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Ophthalmologist, an Optometrist, and an Optician: What’s the Difference?


WRITTEN BY: Eye Center
Friday, December 20th, 2013

One of the most common sources of confusion when deciding who to see for any given related problem is: What is the difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, and an optician?

An optician is a specialist who assists in the filling of a prescription for eyeglasses. Opticians are trained to make and fit your eyeglasses and contact lenses. They usually work in retail eye glass locations and sometimes within the ophthalmologist’s offices.

An optometrist is a specialist who is a Doctor of Optometry. They are licensed to provide eye exams and to make a diagnosis of eye and vision related conditions. An optometrist may prescribe contact lenses or eyeglasses. An optometrist, however, does not have the ability to perform any type of eye surgery.

Ian Conner, MD, an ophthalmologist at the UPMC Eye Center explains, “Optometrists are often the doctors patients will see for routine vision care, as well as when there is an acute change in vision or status of the eyes. They are able to diagnose and treat many common eye diseases, but are also critical in making the appropriate referral when a patient has a more serious problem.”

An ophthalmologist is specialist who is medically and surgically trained to treat eye conditions.  Ophthalmologists hold medical degrees, have completed residencies, and are usually fellowship trained in their field. They are certified to perform the full spectrum of eye care and vision needs, from contacts and eyeglasses, to surgery.

Dr. Conner continued by explaining the role of an ophthalmologist, “As medical doctors and surgeons, ophthalmologists are able to step in and offer specialized treatments to the patient. At the UPMC Eye Center, we are fortunate to have a number of very talented optometrists on staff as well as our large medical faculty of ophthalmologists in multiple surgical subspecialties to serve all of your eye care needs.”

The UPMC Eye Center includes board certified ophthalmologists, optometrists, residents, and other health care professionals who provide an entire range of eye care services in many specialties and subspecialties.

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Eye Center

A recognized leader in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and disorders, the physician’s and staff of the UPMC Eye Center work to improve patients’ quality of life through vision preservation and restoration. We personalize and individualize care for each patient, and our care is always patient-focused. Read More