What is the difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, and an optician?
An Ophthalmologist (MD) has a medical degree and is licensed to practice medicine and perform eye surgery. An ophthalmologist has had at least 12 years of education and training beyond high school and is qualified to diagnose and treat all eye diseases and perform surgery.
Optometrists (ODs) are non-physician health care professionals trained to provide primary eye care, including performing regular eye exams, prescribing glasses, fitting contact lenses, diagnosing eye pathology and providing primary treatment for some eye diseases, as well as referring patients for secondary and tertiary treatment to ophthalmologists.
An Optician usually has a combination of college (or 2 years of opticianary school) and on-the-job training. An optician is trained to fit and dispense eyeglasses or contact lenses based upon a prescription from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.
An Ocularist is a maker of artificial eyes.
Other Eye Care Professionals
Orthoptist: An orthoptist is specially trained to recognize and treat by non-medical and surgical means, anomalies of binocular vision which are usually associated the misalignment of the patient's eye. Orthoptists play a vital role in working with the ophthalmologist in a standard assessment of ocular motility which is important in the diagnosis of strabismus and amblyopia (lazy eye) and in the long term follow-up during treatment with glasses or a post-operative surgical correction. Orthoptists trained in Canada require an undergraduate degree from a recognized university and two years training in an Orthoptic school.
Ophthalmic Assistant: Performs a variety of tests on patients and generally assists the doctor with the patient's medical examination and care in the clinic setting.
Ophthalmic Technicians: Highly trained or experienced assistants which perform more complicated diagnostic testing and photography.
Registered Nurse: A nurse who has specialized ophthalmic training. Nurses in the clinic setting may assist the doctor in more technical tasks, such as injecting medications and minor surgery.
(Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology)