Who’s Who in Eye Care
An ophthalmologist is a physician (M.D. or D.O., doctor of osteopathy)
who is licensed to practice medicine and surgery and specializes in all
aspects of the eye and vision care. In diagnosing and treating eye
conditions, the ophthalmologist uses and prescribes medications, glasses
or contact lenses, and performs surgery. Ophthalmologists attend four
years of college, four years of medical school, and have one or more years
of general hospital experience in treating disease and three or more years in
a hospital-based eye residency program. Ophthalmologists may engage in
further study, specializing in areas such as diseases of the cornea or retina.
An optometrist is a doctor of optometry (O.D.). He or she is licensed
to practice optometry and specializes in screening patients for
abnormalities of the eye and determining the need for glasses.
Optometrists attend two to four years of college and four years of
optometry college. Optometrists treat visual problems with glasses or
contact lenses and may prescribe exercises for muscle imbalances.
Opticians are licensed to fit, adjust, and dispense glasses and other
optical devices prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
Low Vision Specialist
A low vision specialist may be an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
Legal blindness is defined as the central vision (or acuity) of not more
than 20/200 in the better eye with correction (glasses) or as having
peripheral fields (side vision) of no more than 20 degrees diameter or 10
In Massachusetts, ophthalmologists and optometrists are required by
law to register people whose vision has reached those levels with the
Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.