Curious about the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist and which one you should see? Here’s our guide to help you learn all about the different kinds of eye doctors. 

If you’ve noticed that there are two types of eye doctors, you may have wondered what makes them different. Although both can administer a comprehensive eye exam, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and even diagnose and treat eye conditions, there are differences in education and qualifications. 

Optometrists (OD): Specializing in Eye Care and Services



Optometrists go to optometry school (a postgraduate program) for four years, followed by an additional year of school or residency, resulting in a doctor of optometry degree. 

What they are qualified to do:

  • Perform comprehensive eye exams
  • Provide eye health education
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other visual aids
  • Diagnose certain eye diseases, disorders, and injuries
  • Treat common eye conditions, including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism
  • Prescribe some controlled medications for eye conditions
  • In some states, can perform surgery for certain types of eye conditions


Ophthalmologists (MD or DO): Medical and Surgical Eye Care



Ophthalmologists attend medical school for four years, followed by a four- to seven-year residency, depending on their program. They are either medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs). 

What they are qualified to do:

In addition to being qualified to offer the same services as an optometrist, ophthalmologists have additional qualifications due to their medical training. They often specialize in surgical procedures, including eye surgeries for refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism), and surgeries to treat glaucoma and cataracts. 


  • Perform eye surgery for all kinds of eye conditions
  • Provide medical and surgical treatment, including prescribing medications, for eye diseases and disorders
  • Perform plastic surgery to correct cosmetic issues around the eye (such as droopy eyelids)


What about opticians?

Opticians are eye care professionals who work in an eye doctor’s office or vision care center. They are the ones who fill your eyeglasses prescription from the doctor. They can help you select eyeglasses and find the right types of lenses and frames for your face, and can adjust your glasses to fit better and feel more comfortable. 


Do you need to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist? Contact us to schedule an eye exam today. 

Related Posts