Eye Matters
August 23, 2011
What are the three types of eye specialist?

Dear Doctor:

I am confused! I was recently at an eye business and was told that glasses could be prescribed for me but that because I have diabetes and glaucoma, I would have to be referred to an ophthalmologist. I was told that there are three types of eye specialists. How can that be?{{more}} I was also told that the ophthalmologist would cost more. Can you please shed some light on this?

Dear Confused:

It is easy to be confused between the Three O’s of eye care, especially because they all begin with an “O”. The Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician. Even some academics still do not know the difference. Here is an explanation of each O and their role in the care of your eyes.

(1) Optician: An optician’s job is to fit, alter and hand out eye glasses as per the optometrist’s or ophthalmologist’s stipulation.

An optician is not authorized to diagnose eye disorders, contact lenses or medication.

Some opticians recommend, give and adjust glasses.

(2) Optometrist: An optometrist has a Doctor of Optometry or O.D. degree, and is not a medical doctor.

The title doctor can be the most confusing in this case. A doctorate in optometry can be compared to a doctorate in law.

An optometrist is trained to identify abnormalities of the eye, recommend, give or adjust corrective eye glasses and lenses.

In emergency cases, where a patient requires urgent medical attention or surgery, an optometrist will generally recommend a qualified ophthalmologist.

(3) Ophthalmologist: A physician (medical doctor) who specializes in examining and treating the eyes is called an Ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists have an M.D. or Doctor of Medicine degree

Aspiring ophthalmologists attend medical school post college and then practice general medicine before moving on to a residency program in ophthalmology.

This program usually lasts for three or more years and at this point the aspiring ophthalmologist comes into contact with thousands of patients, so it provides a lot of practical experience for future independent practices.

Most ophthalmologists practice general ophthalmology, while some specialize in treating particular parts of the eye.

They may also specialize in eye diseases such as glaucoma or cataract. Specializations require an additional fellowship of a year or so. Ophthalmologists provide total eye care, from standard eye examinations to comprehensive management of serious eye diseases.

Ophthalmologists check people’s vision for any sign of disease or abnormality, and prescribe glasses or lenses on the basis of their diagnosis; they also treat all eye diseases and conditions, including diseases of the flesh surrounding the eye, bone and muscle.

Ophthalmologists carry out eye surgery, which can be either laser surgery or conventional surgery. They also prescribe medications. Ophthalmologists are trained to diagnose other illnesses and refer the patient to the appropriate physician according to the illness diagnosed.

Hope this helps.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: Beachmont@gmail.com

Tel: 784 456-1210