Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist: Key Distinctions Explained

Medically reviewed by Dr. Anthony Nappi / July 25, 2023 / 5 min. read

eye doctor seeing patient

When looking for eye care, there are multiple eye professionals to consider – an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, and an optician. What are the differences between them? What are the similarities? When is it appropriate to see each one? These are all questions we will answer in this blog post, so keep reading to discover more.

Differences Between the Types of Eye Specialists

When it comes to eye doctors, there are some key differences between ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians.

Ophthalmologist vs Optometrist

Optometrists are doctors who have Doctor of Optometry (OD) degrees and focus on routine eye care. They conduct eye exams, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, diagnose certain eye conditions, and provide post-surgical care.

Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, are medical doctors who specialize in surgical eye procedures for conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, crossed eyes, and trauma. They typically receive at least 12 years of training to perform these procedures.

Both optometrists and ophthalmologists provide necessary care, so one isn’t better than the other, and each has its place when it comes to eye care.


Opticians, although not eye doctors, play a vital role in the vision care process. They are skilled technicians who follow prescriptions given to them by optometrists and ophthalmologists and help patients select and fit eyeglasses or contact lenses. Opticians ensure that eyewear meets the required specifications for vision correction and comfort.

While ophthalmologists and optometrists undergo extensive education and training, opticians typically receive long-term on-the-job training or complete a specialized program.

The Similarities Between Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, and Opticians

While ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians have distinct roles in the field of eye care, they also share certain similarities in their commitment to promoting optimal vision health. For example, all three professionals are dedicated to improving and maintaining the visual well-being of their patients.

Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians also work together collaboratively since they all specialize in different parts of the eye treatment process. Optometrists may refer patients to ophthalmologists for complex surgeries or medical treatments. Opticians play a crucial role in this collaboration by handling prescriptions provided by ophthalmologists or optometrists and assisting patients in selecting suitable eyewear.

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist – When You Should See Each

Understanding when to see an optometrist versus an ophthalmologist is key to managing eye health. While seeing an optometrist is an excellent choice for people looking for routine vision care and preventative eye health, ophthalmologists are well-equipped to handle complex eye conditions and perform surgical procedures like LASIK surgery and cataract surgery. So when it comes to specialized medical treatment or surgical intervention, consulting an ophthalmologist is crucial.

Looking for an Eye Doctor?

If you’re looking for an optometrist or ophthalmologist, schedule a consultation with BDP LASIK. Our talented medical professionals at BDP Lasik perform procedures such as LASIK, EVO ICL, or Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) surgery. With our commitment to patient satisfaction, BDP Lasik will guide you through every step of your eye care journey and provide exceptional service. We have practices in the Metro Phoenix Area as well as Flagstaff & Tucson.