Believe it or not, this question is one of the single most common questions in eye care. In fact, many doctors don’t even know the difference themselves.
So here it is simplified:
Optometrists are eye doctors who are trained in managing conditions called “refractive errors,” such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and double vision. They can prescribe an array of refractive tools such as glasses, contact lenses, magnifiers, and prisms. They can often treat various conditions with Vision Therapy as well. Some even prescribe antibiotics for infections or drops for dry eyes. Only in a few states can they perform laser procedures. They attend 4 years of optometry school, but they do not go to medical school.
They often diagnose conditions, such as glaucoma, retinal detachments, cataracts, etc., however, they do not TREAT these conditions. Once they suspect or diagnose someone has an eye condition, they send the patient to an OPHTHALMOLOGIST for treatment.
Ophthalmologists are eye doctors as well, however, they have gone to medical school and have earned an M.D. or D.O. Just like an optometrist, they can prescribe glasses, contact lenses, and prisms, but they can also prescribe medications, perform laser surgery and operate on the eye. They are medical and surgical doctors.
Opticians are individuals trained to sell eyeglasses. They are not doctors.