Sometimes, your primary care provider can treat an eye problem. Other times, you need to see an eye care specialist. There are 3 main types of eye care providers:
What is an ophthalmologist?
Is a licensed medical doctor (MD)
Is trained in all types of eye and vision care, including care to prevent eye problems
Diagnoses and treats eye problems and eye diseases
Prescribes medicines, glasses, and contact lenses
Does eye surgery and laser procedures when needed
Some ophthalmologists specialize in certain parts of the eye, such as the cornea or retina. These specialists have additional training.
What is an optometrist?
Is a licensed healthcare provider who works with eye problems (a doctor, but not an MD)
Examines, diagnoses, and treats eye diseases and vision disorders
Tests vision and prescribes glasses, contacts, or eye exercises
If you need surgery or other specialized eye care, an optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist.
What is an optician?
An optician can make, fit, adjust, and repair glasses. An optician also fits contact lenses. Opticians are not able to prescribe glasses or contact lenses. Not all states license opticians. In the states that do, opticians must have a high school diploma, and take special training in order to be licensed.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2012-12-31 Last reviewed: 2014-10-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Eye Care Providers: References
American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2012-2013 Basic and Clinical Science Course. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2012; v.1-13.
Miller NR, Newman NJ, Biousse V and Kerrison JB, eds. Walsh and Hoytâ€™s Clinical Neuro-Ophthalmology, 6th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004;v.1-3.
Yanoff M and Duker JS. Ophthalmology, 3rd edition. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2008.