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In September, Argentina officially recognized optometry as a profession. Prior to that, only ophthalmology was recognized as an eye care profession.
The three Os of eye care
I often hear confusion among patients about the different types of eye care providers out there. So here’s a brief description of each of them and how they all play an important role in your eye health.
These are the doctors who are the front line in eye care. They check vision, prescribe glasses and contacts and also can detect significant disease in your eyes. While an important part of the eye care team, optometrists are not medical doctors, cannot treat serious eye disease, and are not regulated by the board of medicine in your state. It takes four years of optometry school after completing college to become an optometrist. Some optometrists obtain additional specialization by participating in residency training after optometry school. These specialties can be contact lens, ocular disease, pediatrics, geriatrics, low vision, sports, vision therapy, and others.
Get your glasses – Opticians
Once you have your glasses or contact lens prescription in hand, head to the optician. These professionals are technicians trained to fit eyeglass and contact lenses to correct eyesight. They use the prescriptions supplied by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist to craft your eyewear. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.
Is it serious or do you need surgery? See an Ophthalmologist (Eye MD)
An ophthalmologist, or Eye MD, is a medical doctor that differs from optometrists and opticians in his or her level of training and in what he or she can diagnose and treat. Medical doctors undergo at least eight years of additional training after college and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery by the state medical board. Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgery and can also prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses. It’s the closest thing out there to one-stop-shopping for eye care.
Some Eye MDs specialize in a specific area of medical or surgical eye care and usually complete one or two years of additional, more in-depth training called a fellowship. Subspecialization can be obtained in areas such as glaucoma, retina, cornea, pediatrics, neuroophthalmology, oculoplastic surgery, and others.
So if you need…
A new prescription/contacts/basic eye exam – see an optometrist or comprehensive ophthalmologist
Glasses made/contact lenses fitted (and you already have a prescription) – see an optician (or dispensing optometrist or ophthalmologist)
Serious eye disease managed or eye surgery – see an ophthalmologist
As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in the three Os of eye care. We form a complementary team to take care of your eyes and your vision.
Any questions about these different, but complementary professions?
(Photo credit: American Academy of Ophthalmology)