What Is the difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist and an optician?

  • An Ophthalmologist (MD) has a medical degree and is licensed to practice medicine and perform eye surgery. An ophthalmologist has had at least 12 years of education and training beyond high school and is qualified to diagnose and treat all eye diseases; perform surgery; prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.
  • An Optometrist (OD) has a degree in optometry and is licensed to practice optometry. An optometrist has had at least six years of education and training beyond high school and is qualified to determine the need for glasses and contact lenses; prescribe optical correction; and screen for some eye conditions.
  • An Optician usually has a combination of college (or two years of opticianry school) and on-the-job training. An optician is trained to fit and dispense eyeglasses or contact lenses based upon a prescription from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.

How does normal vision develop?

Newborn infants are able to see, but as they use their eyes during the first months of life, vision improves. During early childhood years, the visual system changes quickly and vision continues to develop. If a child cannot use his or her eyes normally, vision does not develop properly and may even decrease. After the first nine years of life, the visual system is usually fully developed and usually cannot be changed. The development of equal vision in both eyes is necessary for normal vision. Many occupations are not open to people who have good vision in one eye only. If the vision in one eye should be lost later in life from an accident or illness, it is essential that the other eye have normal vision. Without normal vision in at least one eye, a person is visually impaired.

How does the eye work?

When you take a picture, the lens in the front of the camera allows light through and focuses that light on the film that covers the back inside wall of the camera. When the light hits the film, a picture is taken. The eye works in much the same way. The front parts of the eye (the cornea, pupil and lens) are clear and allow light to pass through. The light also passes through the large space in the center of the eye called the vitreous cavity. The vitreous cavity is filled with a clear, jelly-like substance called the vitreous or vitreous gel. The light is focused by the cornea and the lens onto a thin layer of tissue called the retina, which covers the back inside wall of the eye. The retina is like the film in a camera. It is the seeing tissue of the eye. When the focused light hits the retina, a picture is taken. Messages about this picture are sent to the brain through the optic nerve. This is how we see.