Eye Doctors: Who's Who?

Time to get your eyes checked? Well then, you have a choice to make. There's more than one type of eye doctor you can visit, and each has different credentials, skills, and specialties.

To help you with your choice, here's a quick look at the three main types of eye-care professionals and what each of them can do for you:

Opticians are technicians who have a 2-year technical degree that prepares them to work in an optometrist or ophthalmologist office or at an eyeglasses distributor. Opticians are trained to read vision-correction prescriptions from your doctor and supply you with contact lenses or fit you for eyeglasses or other eyewear, like prescription sunglasses. Opticians can also make repairs and adjustments to eyeglasses.

Optometrists are doctors of optometry and, as such, have an OD (doctor of optometry) credential. In addition to an undergraduate degree, they have a degree from a college of optometry. Optometrists provide comprehensive eye exams and can diagnose and treat common vision problems and certain eye abnormalities or diseases, as well as provide pre- and post-surgical care. Optometrists can prescribe glasses, contact lenses, eye exercises, vision aids and therapy, and (in some states) oral and topical medications to treat certain eye diseases.

Ophthalmologists are doctors of the eye. They have graduated from medical school and are licensed to practice medicine, so their credentials are either doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO). Ophthalmologists have been trained in all aspects of eye care. In addition to doing vision exams and prescribing all forms of vision correction, ophthalmologists are trained to diagnose and treat all types of eye problems, injuries, and diseases as well as perform surgery. Some ophthalmologists specialize in certain aspects of eye medicine, like neuro-ophthalmology, or in treating certain diseases, like glaucoma.

Depending on your needs or preferences, you may have appointments with each type of eye specialist at different points in your life. It's good to know what training and skills to expect from each branch so you'll feel prepared for your visits.

Take the next step: Find out what to expect at your appointment by reading this article.