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The Three O’s

Dr. Murphy: A few months ago, I was preparing to deliver a lecture/educational seminar to a group of residents at a nursing home. I stood in the hallway reading over my notes. I was dressed in a suit with a stick on name badge that said my name and below it, Optometrist. I was waiting for the social announcements to end. A resident approached me and simply asked, “Honey, don’t you think your barking up the wrong tree?” I had no idea how to respond. “Excuse me ma’am? I am not sure what you mean?” She replied by simply saying, Sweetheart, I’ve done had all the babies I’m gonna have at this point. Shoot, even my babies are done having babies.”

You see, she mistook me for an Obstetrician. This happens often when I am not in my office.  Seems silly huh? Well, it makes me laugh and I love to laugh. But, that “O” is not amongst the three “O’s” I refer to today. Today I refer to three that are more commonly confused, namely an Optician, an Optometrist, and an Ophthalmologist. What is the difference?

Simply put, an Optician is someone who is trained to fit and design eyewear. The design process can begin with frame selection and can ultimately end with lens production and eyewear dispensing. Levels of training will vary widely. Some opticians are certified by the national American Board of Opticianry which implies they have taken a written exam to demonstrate competency. Many have on-the-job training and their expertise has been garnered over years of practice. Opticians are not authorized to change the order as written by the doctor.

An Optometrist is an eye care provider that serves their role in eye care as the equivalent of your primary health care provider in your systemic care. An Optometrist is trained to measure your prescription, prescribe corrective eyewear in the form of eyeglasses and contact lenses, measure visual function and evaluate the health of your eyes. Optometrists treat eye conditions such as dry eye, infections, glaucoma, as well as many others. Optometrists are trained to treat eye emergencies such as foreign body injuries and abrasions. Optometrists complete 4 years of undergraduate education as well as 4 years of doctoral training. Optometrists do not perform eye surgery.

An Ophthalmologist is an eyecare provider that has completed undergraduate training as well as general medical school. Ophthalmologists complete a residency and many go on to complete a fellowship in a specific area of specialty.  Ophthalmologists are specifically trained to perform surgery on the eyes. The treat eye conditions such as retinal detachments, cataracts, corneal transplants, and also perform various laser treatments, including LASIK but also laser treatments for conditions like diabetic retinopathy.

Each professional has a role in the eye care process. At FREA, Dr Gunderson and I are optometrists providing full scope primary eye care. We have a select group of ophthalmologists that we have hand selected to perform specialty procedure for our patients as necessary. Like your primary care doctor can handle most of your care and refers you to a cardiologist when specialized care is needed, we will provide most care for your eyes and direct you to the appropriate specialist as needed. We have opticians on staff to design your eyewear when required. In addition, at FREA we have specialty trained contact lens specialists who can contribute to your success as a contact lens wearer!

Lastly, as members of a comprehensive health care team, we are also well connected to a variety of health care providers in the greater community. Please ask if you need a referral or if you are new to the area and just need help getting started. We want to make your health care as simple as possible and we hope to take an active role as a member of your health care team.