Regular eye exams are absolutely crucial to keeping your vision health a top priority. When scheduling these appointments, it is important to make sure you are seeing the right specialist. You can choose to see an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or an optician. While these eye doctors are specialists in the field of eye and vision health, they have different levels of training and expertise. We will explain the key differences between these three specialists so you may better understand which is best for you and your eyes.

An ophthalmologist — Eye M.D. — is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat. As a medical doctor who has completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training, an ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. 

Optometrists are most likely what you think of when you consider an eye doctor or specialist. Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more years of college. They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.

If you are someone who just needs glasses or contact lenses and a yearly checkup, you are more than likely going to see an optometrist. Seeing an optometrist yearly allows you to get your annual updated eye prescription and ensure that you are maintaining your eye health. Optometrists can help you identify vision changes through the performance of eye exams and vision tests. 

On the other hand, If you have a family history of eye disease or are experiencing symptoms that may be a sign of eye disease, you should definitely see an ophthalmologist. Because of their schooling and experience, they are able to diagnose and treat eye diseases and if need be, perform surgery. They can also prescribe and fit eyeglasses or contact lenses like an optometrist can.

No matter your eye needs, it is important to have your eyes checked regularly. Next time you see your eye specialist, ask them if there are any steps you can take to improve your vision health, such as by taking daily ocular nutritional supplements!