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    Ophthalmologist vs Optometrist vs Optician

    It can get confusing when you consider the different eye care professionals available to you today – so what is the actual difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, and an optician?

    When it’s time to get your eyes checked, make sure you are seeing the right eye care professional for your needs. Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians each play an important role in providing eye care to patients. But the levels of training and expertise are quite different for each type of provider.

    Here is an overview of the three types of eye care providers in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and throughout Hampton Roads:

    An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who primarily specializes in treatment of eye disease and eye surgery. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their level of training and in what they can diagnose and treat. An ophthalmologist has received an undergraduate degree, a medical degree, and several years of extra training, depending on their specialty. If you have LASIK or need cataract surgery, you will see an ophthalmologist. Some ophthalmologists also choose to prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. There are also ophthalmologists involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders.

    Drs. Scott and Lisa Gontarek are optometrists, as is Dr. Erin Carey. Optometrists are the nation’s largest eye care profession. They are trained to examine, diagnose, treat, and manage disorders that affect the eye or vision. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of college and four years of optometry school. In addition to spending four years learning everything about the eye and visual system, optometrists also must complete courses in human anatomy, neuroscience, and physiology and their relationship to various eye pathologies. Some optometrists also complete an extra year of residency, as Dr. Lisa did in Primary Care. They are licensed to practice optometry, which includes the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease as well as performing routine eye care for eyeglasses and contact lenses.

    Staff members Lori and Beverly are opticians. Opticians are trained to verify and accurately fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. Some opticians are also trained to manufacture, cut, and edge lenses to be fitted into frames. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual correction. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.

    We hope this helps you better understand who’s who in the eye care profession.

    If you have any questions about your eyes, please contact us at (757) 966-2206. 


    Since 2010, our optometrists in Chesapeake have provided families in Virginia Beach and Norfolk with the best eye care possible. Our eye clinic is rooted in the philosophy of good old fashioned honesty and customer service – and our patients appreciate that. Our optometrists and staff can provide a comprehensive eye examination, vision therapy, eye exams, glasses, contacts, co-management of surgical patients, and more.

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