|Ophthalmology, optometry, and opticianry are the three complimentary
disciplines of eye care.
An ophthalmologist is a physician (doctor of medicine, MD, or
doctor of osteopathy, DO) who specializes in the medical and surgical
care of the eyes and visual system and in the prevention of eye
disease and injury. An ophthalmologist has completed four or more
years of college premedical education, four or more years of medical
school, one year of internship and three or more years of specialized
medical and surgical and refractive training and experience in eye
care. An ophthalmologist is a specialist who is qualified by lengthy
medical education, training and experience to diagnose, treat and
manage all eye and visual systems and is licensed by a state regulatory
board to practice medicine and surgery. An ophthalmologist is a
medically trained specialist who can deliver total eye care: primary,
secondary and tertiary (i.e., vision services, contact lenses, eye
examinations, medical eye care and surgical eye care), diagnose
general diseases of the body and treat ocular manifestations of
Doctors of optometry are independent primary health care providers
who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of
the visual system, the eye and associated structures as well as
diagnose related systemic conditions.
They examine the internal and external structure of the eyes
to diagnose eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disorders;
systemic diseases like hypertension and diabetes; and vision conditions
like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia.
Optometrists also do testing to determine the patient's ability
to focus and coordinate the eyes, and to judge depth and see colors
They prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, low vision aids,
vision therapy and medicines to treat eye diseases.
As primary eye care providers, optometrists are an integral part
of the health care team and an entry point into the health care
system. They are skilled in the co-management of care that affects
the eye health and vision of their patients and an excellent source
of referral to other health care professionals.
In the state of Oklahoma, optometrists are able to perform non-incisional
laser surgery including Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK).
Opticians adjust and fit optical products such as glasses. Some
employers hire individuals with no background in opticianry. Training
may be informal, on-the-job or formal apprenticeship. Others seek
people with college level training in opticianry.
Formal opticianry training is offered in community colleges and
a few colleges and universities. In 1993, there were about 40 programs.
Of these, 23 were accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation
and awarded 2-year associate degrees in ophthalmic dispensing or
optometric technology. There are also shorter programs, including
some less than 1 year. Some states that license dispensing opticians
allow graduates to take the licensure exam immediately upon graduation;
others require a few months to a year of experience.
Dispensing opticians may also gain credentials through voluntary
certification or registration by the American Board of Opticianry
and by the National Contact Lens Examiners. Certification must be
renewed every 3 years through continuing education.
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