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Q: What is the difference between an optometrist, ophthalmologist and an optician?

A: The terminology is very confusing, isn't it? Here is the quick and dirty guide. Keep in mind there is some overlap which adds to the confusion.

Opticians – These are the professionals in the eyeglass (or "optical") shop who may help you pick out your frames, make the glasses, and adjust them to fit your face.

Optometrists – The name comes from the Greek words meaning vision and to measure. Optometrists are trained in 4 year schools of optometry to become doctors of optometry (O.D.). They have prescribing privileges for a limited number of medicines, and can treat some medical conditions of the eye. But mostly, optometrists examine patients to prescribe glasses and contact lenses.

Ophthalmologists – This name also comes from the Greek words meaning eye and to study.

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors, having completed the full 4 years of regular medical school, 1 year of general medical internship, and 3 years of ophthalmology specialty training. Some ophthalmologists choose to further subspecialize and complete additional training of 1-2 more years depending on the field of specialization. Ophthalmologists can prescribe glasses and contact lenses, but as medical doctors, mostly deal with diseases and surgery of the eyes.

Hall T. McGee, M.D.

Hall T. McGee, M.D., Everett & Hurite Ophthalmic Association, can be reached at (412) 288-0885 or mcgeeh@gmail.com


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