About eye specialists

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There are four eye care professionals you may come across.

OPHTHALMOLOGISTS (also known as: Eye Specialist, Eye Surgeon, Eye Doctor)

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor, specially trained in the medical and surgical care and treatment of the eyes. Becoming an ophthalmologist can take 12 or more years of advanced education and training. Ophthalmologists must complete 6 years of medical school, and other 3 to 5 years of hospital residency to train in the medical specialty of ophthalmology.

Ophthalmologists can:

  • diagnose and treat eye conditions
  • perform eye surgery
  • prescribe medications
  • prescribe glasses


They attend 3 to 4 years of tertiary education, where they are trained to examine the eyes to determine the presence of a limited number and type of vision problems and certain problems related to eye movement. Optometrists can:

  • prescribe glasses and contact lenses
  • do not prescribe controlled medications
  • diagnose or screen for and monitor eye disease
  • refer clients directly to an ophthalmologist if surgery or complex therapeutic treatment is required.


Orthoptics is a three-year full-time degree course. now spend the majority of their day assessing, diagnosing and managing patients with eye muscle disorders. Traditional orthoptic exercise programs are still employed when appropriate. Orthoptists work closely with ophthalmologists to ensure that patients with eye muscle disorders are exposed to a full range of treatment option Orthoptists serve patients of all ages, but because of the nature of many binocular disorders, the majority of patients are children. The professional role of the orthoptist include examining patients with eye problems especially those related to ocular motility, binocular vision, amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus (squint). Orthoptists diagnose these problems and determine appropriate management. Some perform vision screening of children in schools and community health centers.


They are individuals who are trained to design, verify, and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. Opticians are not trained to diagnose or treat eye diseases, but when they do suspect a medical eye problem they should refer the patient to an ophthalmologist.

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