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What’s The Difference Between Optometrists and Ophthalmologists?

There is often confusion around the differences between optometrists and ophthalmologists and their roles in vision care.

Eye doctors have different levels of education and training to diagnose and treat a range of optical issues ranging from routine check-ups to surgery. But what are the differences between optometrists and ophthalmologists?


Optometrists are what you most likely think of when you think of an eye doctor. They handle general appointments, perform eye exams and vision tests, and can prescribe corrective treatments like glasses or contacts. Optometrists complete four years of additional training after college and have a doctorate in optometry.


Ophthalmologists are medical doctors and perform surgical procedures involving the eyes such as LASIK and cataracts, in addition to performing exams and prescribing glasses and contacts. To become a practicing ophthalmologist, they must complete medical school and additional years of residency. 

Working together for a patient

Often an optometrist will refer a patient to an ophthalmologist if surgery or some other type of specialized care is needed beyond what an optometrist can provide. An ophthalmologist and optometrist will often co-manage patients, meaning they work together to provide the best possible treatment.

What is an Optician?

An eye doctor’s office with an on-site optical center also has opticians who provide care to patients. An optician is not trained as an eye doctor, and they cannot give eye exams. Rather, they are technicians trained to fit prescription glasses and can assist with contact lenses. Opticians do not diagnose or treat eye diseases or write prescriptions. Many have one or two years of training and are licensed, but license requirements vary by state.

Ophthalmologists at Iowa Eye Center

At Iowa Eye Center, our entire team of doctors is comprised of highly experienced, board-certified ophthalmologists, able to see to your every need in visual care. Opticians in our Optical Center are trained in fitting patients with glasses, many of which are made right in our on-site optical center lab. Contact lenses as well as eye drops, and other optical accessories are also available online through our online store.

Whether you need an eye exam, glasses, or contacts, or are interested in a LASIK screening, contact us by phone (319-362-3937) or by online form today.

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