The Four Eye Care Professionals You Need to Know: Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, Opticians and Ocularists

While you might be familiar with each of these eye care professionals, it is important to know the difference between each.  Their specialty, diagnostic training, and treatment ability will determine which provider you should visit for a particular symptom.   

An ophthalmologist is a highly specialized medical doctor (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) who has received special training in all aspects of eye care, including prevention, diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye conditions and diseases.  A few examples of specialized ophthalmologists include oculoplastics, corneal, glaucoma, pediatrics and oncology.   

Your ophthalmologist is the only eye care professional licensed to perform eye surgery.  This includes medically necessary surgery such as corneal transplants to cosmetic surgery such as eyelid procedures.  If you are in need of any type of eye surgery, an ophthalmologist should be your first and only choice for provider.

An optometrist, like an ophthalmologist, has received special training in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases.  The biggest difference between the two is that doctors of optometry (O.D.) are not licensed to perform any type of surgical treatment.  They are in the most general sense your primary “eye doctor” with the ability to prescribe medication, glasses, and contacts. In the event that your condition requires more specialized diagnosis and treatment, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist.             

An optician is a trained technician in the fulfillment of glasses and contact prescriptions.  In most instances you will receive a prescription from your ophthalmologist or optometrist before visiting the optician.  If you are in need of adjustments to glasses or lenses, without any changes to the prescription, than an optician can help you.

An ocularist is a specialist in the art of fitting, painting and fabricating custom ocular prosthesis, (prosthetic eyes).  Certified by the National Examining Board of Ocularists (N.E.B.O.) a Board Certified Ocularist (B.C.O.) has completed over 10,000 hours of training before passing both a written and practical exam.  Continuing education courses are also required at annual meetings of the American Society of Ocularists (A.S.O.) to retain board certification.            

Ocularists are not doctors and therefore not licensed to diagnose or treat any type of eye disease.  They are specifically trained to fit, fabricate and maintain prosthetic eyes. They also serve as the primary source of patient and provider education in this specialized field.  For more information regarding prosthetic eyes, please call our office to schedule a consultation with a board certified ocularist today!