Did you Know?
- All adults should receive a baseline comprehensive eye exam before or at the age 40.
- Health adults over age 40 should have a comprehensive eye exam every 1 to 3 years.
- Adults who are 65 or older should have an eye exam every year or two.
- Anyone with chronic disease like diabetes or high blood pressure, a family history, or other risk factors should be followed every year.
- Anyone with a change in their vision should be seen right away!
Who Is Who?
For those seeking eye care, the landscape of providers invested in eye health can be confusing. What is the difference between ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians? The levels of expertise and training, and what procedures they are allowed to do for you, are the basic differences between the types of eye care provider.
An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic physician who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the eyes. They will have the initials "M.D." (Doctor of Medicine) or "D.O." (Doctor of Osteopathy) after their names. They complete 4 years of medical school, one year of internship, 3 years of residency and often do specialty training beyond that. They are licensed by state regulatory boards to practice medicine and surgery, including surgery for cataracts and eye trauma, and laser surgery on corneas.
An optometrist is a professional who conducts examinations, prescribes corrective contact lenses and glasses, and diagnoses and treats some eye diseases. They will have the initials "O.D." (Doctor of Optometry) after their names. Optometrists complete a 4-year postgraduate program in optometry school to earn the Doctor of Optometry degree, after a 4-year undergraduate degree. Some optometrists will also do a residency in a specialty area. They are licensed by state regulatory boards and their scope of practice is regulated by each state. Some states allow optometrists to perform selected surgical procedures.
Opticians fit patients with glasses, contact lenses and other eyewear as prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They do not diagnose eye disease or prescribe lenses. In many states they do not need a license to practice but are often certified by a training program or two-year college degree. They may be trained through an apprenticeship. More than 20 U.S. states require licensure for opticians. Visit Opticians Association of America to learn more.
Take Care of Your Eyes!
A recent study reported that more than 7 million Americans have vision loss or blindness, and that 1.6 million are younger than age 40. 3 The study also found a higher risk of vision loss among women, and in Hispanic/Latino and Black individuals. Since many causes of vision loss are preventable or treatable, regular screening and comprehensive eye care is more important than ever.
- Read Eye Exam and Vision Testing Basics from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Learn about different Ophthalmology Subspecialists from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology website and use the Find an Ophthalmologist online database to locate one in your area.
- Visit the American Optometric Association website and use their Doctor Locator online database to locate an optometrist in your area.
1. American Academy of Ophthalmology; (2) American Optometric Association; (3) Flaxman et al. Prevalence of Visual Acuity Loss or Blindness in the US. JAMA Ophthalmology. 2021