Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, Or Optician... Which One Should I See?

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Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, Or Optician... Which One Should I See?

Ophthalmologist, optometrist, and optician all sound similar but their jobs and educational requirements vary drastically. While all of these roles are vital for eye health and the optical care community, they perform very different jobs. As a patient, you will interact with an optician to select and purchase eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses and will have your annual eye exams done by the optometrist. You will likely only visit the ophthalmologist if you have an eye disease or an eye emergency. Here are the different qualifications and duties of an ophthalmologist, optometrist, and optician, as well as what situations dictate a visit to each.

The Differences Between Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, And Optician

Ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in eye surgery and rare pathology treatment. In order for a person to become an ophthalmologist, they must have received a four year Bachelor Degree as well as a four year degree from an accredited medical school and they must have completed a medical residency. These are the only type of eye doctors who are qualified to perform surgeries.

When To See An Ophthalmologist. You may want to see an ophthalmologist if you are experiencing a loss of vision, change of vision, changes to your field of vision, changes in your physical eye, or changes in your colour vision. Some ophthalmologists have specializations and you may be directed to one once your eye issue has been diagnosed and the area of treatment has been determined.

Optometrist. To become an optometrist, a person must complete their Bachelor of Science, followed by a four year Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited school of optometry. Optometrists conduct eye exams, write prescriptions for eyeglasses and medications, give referrals for seeing ophthalmologists, diagnose disorders and diseases in the eye, and more. Optometrists are often the eye doctors patients will see when they schedule an annual eye exam.

When to see an optometrist. You should see an optometrist once a year for your annual eye exam. Other circumstances that would warrant an early visit would be any abnormalities in the eye, such as eye infection, eye pain, eye fatigue, blurry vision, light sensitivity, dry or itchy eyes, excessive floaters, double vision, foreign objects in the eye, or any other cause for concern.

Optician. This group of professionals is responsible for measuring and fitting frames. This position requires a college program that trains opticians how to interpret the prescription from the optometrist and fit the eyeglasses accordingly. Opticians help people pick out the frames and eyewear options that will best suit their lifestyle and look, making this career part science and part retail. Opticians do not assess the eyes, diagnose disease, treat eye conditions, or write prescriptions for eyeglasses/contact lenses.

When to see an Optician. If you need adjustments for your eyeglasses, many opticians will take walk-ins. You should see your optician if  you’re looking for a new pair of eyeglasses, if your current eyeglasses need routine care or adjustment, if you need refilling of prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses, or if you have general eye care questions.

How To Reach An Optician, Optometrist, Or An Ophthalmologist

If you are experiencing any of the issues listed above, come to Specs in the City in SE Calgary. We have two experienced Calgary optometrists on staff as well as several highly trained opticians to help you with all of your eye health concerns. If you are looking for an ophthalmologist, come to Specs in the City first so we can give you an eye exam and a referral. For an eye exam with our top rated eye doctors or for an eyeglasses adjustment, call us at 1-403-252-2020,  visit us in SE Calgary, or book an appointment here. If you have any questions or comments, please fill out our online contact form.


Q: Where do ophthalmologists work?
A: Typically, ophthalmologists work at hospitals or private practices and not out of optometry clinics. Ophthalmologists typically won’t schedule appointments without a referral, so if you want to see one you will need to see a Calgary optometrist first.

Q: Who is being referred to when people say “eye doctor”?
A: Officially, ophthalmologists and optometrists are both doctors, although ophthalmologists are the only ones with the title of Medical Doctor (MD) and are the only ones who have attended a medical residency and can perform surgery. Because optometrists have a Doctor of Optometry degree, they are also doctors even though they do not have the title of MD. Optometrists are often called eye doctors and when people refer to an eye doctor they are likely talking about an optometrist.

Q: How many times a year should I visit the optometrist for an eye exam?
A: That will depend on your age and if you have any underlying eye diseases. In general, you should be visiting your Calgary eye doctor once at the ages of 6 months old, 3 years old, and 5 years old, and then you should have annual eye exams between ages 5 and 19, and once you are 40 or over. If you are between the ages of 20 and 39 it is typically acceptable to have your eye exams every 2 or 3 years.

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