Highlight: Who are the people who will help me?

There are professionals who will take care of the health & effectiveness of your eyes. In the US, they are ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians and others.  If you are reading this in the UK or other parts of the world, are the titles the same or different to those in the US?  Are their areas of expertise the same or different? Please give us a comment if they are not.


An ophthalmologist is a doctor, an ‘eye MD’.  He/she has a degree in medicine (Doctor of Medicine; MD) or osteopathy (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine; DO) who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in the amount of training they have and what they can diagnose and treat:

  • A medical doctor has completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training.
  • An ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery.
  • An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.
  • Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders.
  • An ophthalmologist will refer you to a specialist if necessary.  For example, if you have been diagnosed with AMD, he/she will refer you to a Retina Specialist.

Click here to find an ophthalmologist, view their resources and learn more about what they do. 

Retina Specialist

A Retina Specialist is a medical doctor (MD or DO) who specializes in diseases/disorders of the vitreous body and the retina of the eye. This specialty is often known as Vitreoretinal Medicine.

  • A retina specialist has finished college, medical school + a 1-year internship + a 3-year residency in ophthalmology and 1 or 2 years as a fellow in Retina-Vitreous Medicine.
  • They do medical treatments and surgery in which they must be very exact in their procedures. Most of these procedures are delicate & require the use of microsurgical equipment (using a microscope).  They work on tissues in the eye that are very small.  Often they do procedures using a laser.
  • Some of the surgeries they do are:  Retinal Detachment surgery, Diabetic Vitrectomy, Macular Holes and/or Pucker Vitrectomies, Macular Translocation and more.
  • They treat conditions like Diabetic Retinopathy, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Macular Holes and Puckers, Retinal Detachment and more.

Click here to find a retina specialist, view their resources and learn more about what they do.


Optometrists are eye professionals who earned a Doctor of Optometry (OD) which is not the same as being a medical doctor (MD).

  • An optometrist has a four-year college degree program in the sciences + plus four years of post-graduate professional training in optometry school.
  • They perform eye exams and vision tests, prescribe corrective lenses, detect some eye abnormalities.
  • They can prescribe medications for certain eye diseases.

Click here to find an optometrist, view their resources and learn more about what they do.


Opticians is not an eye doctor, does not have an MD, DO. They take prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists and fit and sell eyeglasses and contact lenses, and other eyewear.

  • The training required varies from state to state. Some states don’t require formal training or licensure. Other states allow opticians to work after completing a certification.
  • They cannot diagnose and treat eye diseases.
  • Optometrists and Opticians often work in the same office/practice.

Click here to find out more about their field and training requirements.

Ophthalmic Medical Assistants and Technician

Ophthalmic Medical Assistants help ophthalmologists care for patients by their histories, preparing patients to see the doctor and performing some of the tests.  They can also talk to patients about the medications, procedures and tests.

  • They often have no prior experience in vision services.
  • They can be trained through on-the-job training by other assistants in the office and given assignments & homework.
  • There are formal training programs with classroom and distance learning programs.

Click here to find out more about Ophthalmic Medical Assistants.

 Who Does Low Vision Therapy?

Those who help people who are blind or have low vision to live independently and maintain a good quality of life are in the field of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT).   The therapists can be thought of based on what aspect of everyday life they help someone with.  For instance:

  • Some ophthalmologists and optometrists have additional training in low vision and can conduct low vision testing and prescribe low vision optical devices.
  • Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) help people travel safely and independently.
  • Occupational Therapists (OTs), Certified Vision Therapists (CRTs) and Certified Low Vision Therapists (CLVT) help people with low vision or who are blind live an independent and full life.  Their skills and areas of expertise often overlaps and the training requirements vary.

You will be referred to these therapists by your ophthalmologist, optometrist, or family doctor.





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