Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists are the leaders in the eye care team. They differ from optometrists and opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat. As a medical doctor who has completed university and at least nine years of additional medical training, an ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. For this reason, they are considered to be both surgical and medical specialists. An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.
While ophthalmologists are trained to care for all eye problems and conditions, some ophthalmologists specialize in a specific area of medical or surgical eye care. This person is called a sub-specialist. He or she usually completes one or two years of additional, more in-depth training called a fellowship in one of the main sub-specialty areas such as glaucoma, retina, cornea, pediatrics, neurology, uveitis and oculoplastics, as well as others. This added training and knowledge prepares an ophthalmologist to take care of more complex or specific conditions in certain areas of the eye or in certain groups of patients.
Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders.
Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more years of university. They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.
Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual correction. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.