A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Three O’s of eye care

Optometrist, ophthalmologist and optician – each serves a purpose in your eye care. But how do you know which one to see?

Photo of eye care provider showing glasses to patient

Our eye care providers work as a team to care of you when, where and how you need it.

Dr. Susan Ksiazek, ophthalmologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System, explains the differences in professions to provide you a “clear vision” when choosing your eye care provider.

Optometrist

Ksiazek refers to optometrists as your “first point of contact” for eye care.

An optometrist examines eyes for both vision and health problems, and corrects vision concerns by prescribing glasses and contact lenses.

“I often call optometrists the primary eye care providers,” Ksiazek said. “Once I have treated a condition for the patient, I refer them back to optometry to continue their eye care.”

Optometrists may participate in your pre- and post-operative care if you have eye surgery performed by an ophthalmologist. An optometrist generally completes a four-year degree, plus four years of post-graduate professional training in optometry school.

Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in eye and vision care, typically with a subspecialty.

Many ophthalmologists subspecialize in specific eye conditions such as retina or glaucoma. A focus for Dr. Ksiazek is cataract surgery. However, ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye exams, diagnose and treat diseases, prescribe medications and perform eye surgery.

Ophthalmologists can treat glaucoma, diabetes, crossed eyes, styes or bumps in the eyelids, retina, cornea, neurological issues and more. They also write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Generally, four years of college, four years of medical school, an internship and a minimum of three years of hospital-based residency is needed for ophthalmology.

Optician

An optician is another important part of your eye care team.

Opticians use prescriptions written by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to fit and sell glasses or other eyewear. They are experts at finding the right frames for your face, and whether you need bifocals or a second pair of glasses for your lifestyle.

Team approach to care

No matter your eye care needs, the “three O’s” work together to refer you to the correct provider. Ksiazek said optometrists, ophthalmologists and opticians are intertwined to deliver high quality, affordable health care to patients.

Schedule an appointment with your primary eye doctor for any vision concerns.

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