Are Optometrists Doctors?

If you’d like to know whether optometrists are doctors, then this article is for you.

It is often said that the eyes are windows to the soul, and they are also the light of the body. Without the eyes, the brain and the body as a whine will find it difficult to communicate properly. The eye is a tool for knowledge and, reasoning amongst others. The eyes are the second most complex organ in the body preceding the brain. They communicate with the brain and they both work hand in hand to ensure the safety of other parts of the body.

A lot of people are usually confused by the profession, some people who may not know usually call them doctors. But the fact is that some other medical professionals may not agree with that, most doctors frown at the fact that Optometrists and veterinarians are called doctors.

Another issue that eye patients are faced with is which eye doctor to go to when they have which eye issue. Since we have about four different types of eye care speculate.

In this article, you’ll know why other medical professionals don’t agree with the fact that optometrists should be called doctors, and you’ll also know which doctors to visit for the right eye issue.

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Are Optometrists Doctor?

Who Is An Optometrist?

Before we examine who an optometrist is, we shall examine what Optometry is.

Optometry is a specialized healthcare profession that involves measuring and examining the eyes, detecting eye problems, and diagnosing eye defects, and providing solutions, treatments, although in complex cases, they refer the problems to an Ophthalmologist. Optometry is derived from the Greek words “opsis” which means view and “metron” which means something used to measure.

According to Wikipedia, Optometrists are healthcare professionals with a degree in eye care specifically. They obtain a Doctor of Optometry (OD) in optometry school, after completing an optometry course for four years, before which they must have gotten their first degree in college.

 They are not medical doctors but they are often given licenses to practice optometry, that is they give eye exams, and write prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses. They detect defects in eye vision, symptoms and signs of injury, disease of the eyes (Ocular Disease) or abnormalities in the eyes, and problems with general health. They also prescribe optical corrections. Sometimes, Optometrists conduct specified eye surgical procedures and prescribe medications.

The optometry degree is usually given and approved by the General Optical Council (GOC).

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Roles of An Optometrist

An Optometrist has a lot to play in the most delicate part of the human body, which is the eyes, and very few other health conditions. They are the front liners of eye care specialists.

Below are the roles and responsibilities of an Optometrist in the hospital.

  •  An Optometrist is tasked with the role of examining a patient’s eyes, they test for Ocular conditions (eye disease), test for eye problems, and eyes sight, they also give medical advice on visual problems, and prescribe medications, injections, glasses, and contact lenses. 
  •  In rare cases, they conduct eye surgery, but this is not accepted in some countries, alongside giving injections to patients, they are frowned on in States like California.
  • They equally give eye care tips to patients, for example, how to care for the eyes, and the best lenses or glasses that fit the eyes, and then they expose patients to things or objects that are harmful to the eyes. 
  • Optometrists, usually check other health conditions such as diabetes, etc. 
  • In extreme cases, they refer patients to ophthalmologists. They also check fitting lenses or glasses to correct vision defects.
  • Optometrists specialize in the removal of superficial foreign bodies in all parts of the eyes.
  • When they examine the eyes, they usually look for internal eye bleeding, tissue disorder, tears in the retina and tumors, and eye problems relating to serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 
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Are Optometrists Doctors?

While some people, especially some medical doctors in the medical field frown on the concept of Optometrists being called doctors, others usually don’t mind referring to them as doctors. 

Some people feel like, if Optometrists check for eye problems, diagnose them, and fix the problems by prescribing medications, glasses, and contact lenses, then they should be called doctors 

However, some medical doctors don’t think the same way because, after the first degree in college/university, Optometrists are awarded Doctor of Optometry (OD), unlike other medical professional courses whose participants are awarded Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB, BS) as their first degree after college, and then Doctor of Medicine is usually given as a second degree which is equivalent to Ph.D.

The only eye doctor that is qualified to be called a doctor, an eye doctor is an Ophthalmologist, which we’ll discuss later in this article.

An Optometrist is registered by the Nigerian Optometry Board to provide the optical services listed above.

Therefore, Optometrists are eye care specialists and not eye doctors, neither are they eye physicians.

Types of Eye Doctor

There are four (4) primary types of eye doctors. They are all specialists in treating eye issues, and they all obtained either a doctorate or a medical degree in a university or college.

When faced with certain eye issues, some people are often confused about which doctor to see, and when to see which doctor. This article will make it easier by differentiating between all the eye doctors available. 

Below are four main types of eye doctors.

  • Ophthalmologist
  • Optometrist 
  • Optician
  • Orthoptist 

1. Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. An Ophthalmologist specializes in all aspects of eye care, including diagnosis, treatment, surgery, therapy of the eyes, etc.

They handle the more complex aspect of eye and/or vision care. 

Ophthalmologists are awarded Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB, BS) or doctor of Osteopathy (D.O) after their first degree in the university or college, and then another 6-8 years including internship, national service, and National Postgraduate Medical College in Nigeria to become an Ophthalmologist, and then one or two years to sub-specialize in one of the seven divisions of Ophthalmology.

They are also involved in scientific research of eye disorders and treatment. They are also tasked with the treatment and management of late-stage eye disease. Ophthalmologists are given licenses to operate and practice eye medicine and surgery, they also prescribe and fit eyeglasses and lenses.

In the United States, to be qualified as an Ophthalmologist, a person must have completed 12 years of education and training which include four years of college, four years of medical school, and an additional four years of training.

in Nigeria, the minimum age to operate in Ophthalmology is 32 years.


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The Sub-specialists

The Subspecialists are Ophthalmologists that had additional training which is usually called a fellowship, on more complex issues of the eyes.

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If there are complex issues in the eyes, patients are often referred to the eye sub-specialists.

The sub-specialists treat other complex eye issues such as;

  • Glaucoma: high eye pressure usually leads to damage to the nerve connecting the eye to the brain. The Sub-specialist must perform medical and surgical treatment for this procedure.
  • Cataracts: aging or injury can damage the tissue in the eyes and cause blurry vision. The Subspecialist would perform a safe outpatient procedure by taking off the lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens.
  • The Retina or Uveitis: these are conditions that affect the retina and vitreous, and this would need a laser treatment and surgical treatment, which are diabetic retinopathy, and retinal detachment.
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology: this focuses on eye conditions that affect children.
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery: This involves performing surgical procedures, including removing tumors and repairing bony fractures.
  • Nero-ophthalmology: This area relates to the neurological conditions that include visual manifestations.
  • Ocular oncology: This involves the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in or around the eye.


2. Optometrists

 these are eye care specialists that operate in all aspects of eye and vision care except in complex cases and surgeries.

Unlike the Ophthalmologist, Optometrists do not perform complex eye surgery, well, except for minor outpatient surgeries like laser surgeries.

They prescribe drugs for eyes correction, recommend glasses and contact lenses for eye defects, and as earlier stated they transfer the more complex issues to the Ophthalmologist because facing the more complex issues would just be them crossing their limits.

They also gather family eye medical history and give eye care advice to patients.

3. Optician

 An optician is a technical practitioner involved in the designing, fitting, and dispensing of contact lenses or glasses for the correction of an eye defect. They design and manufacture spectacle frames and corrective ophthalmic appliances which may be contact lenses, low vision aids, spectacle lenses, or prosthetics for those who are partially sighted.

They also design and fit special appliances to correct cosmetics and traumatic and anatomical defects.

A fully credentialed Optician in the United States must have gone through college and studied Optical Science and they are awarded the Ophthalmic Optician (O.O) and credentialed by the Society to Advance Opticianry (SAO). The opticians are not qualified to test eye sights or prescribe medications to patients nor are they allowed to do eye surgeries. Opticians are busy given a license to operate. They are to register and get their license, or else they won’t be allowed to operate.


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4. Orthoptist

 the word “orthoptic” originated from the Greek word “orthos” and “optikus”.

Orthos means straight while options mean relating to sight.

Orthoptists specialize in diagnosing and treating defects in eye movements and problems with how the eyes work. They also detect neurological problems by detecting the issues in the nerve that connects the eyes to the brain which can result in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.

They are trained to treat eye disorders such as amblyopia, generic disorders, and complex pediatric and adult strabismus.

Orthoptists are usually more uniquely trained and skilled in diagnostic techniques than Optometrists. After their bachelor’s degree, they complete a two-year fellowship certification and then they register and obtain a license to practice. 

They work hand in hand with Ophthalmologists and Optometrists in detecting problems in eye movements, and vision impairment, examining the eyes, and then finding a solution or treatments for the eyes. The large majority of Orthoptists patients are children, even though they treat patients of all ages.

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After completing a college degree and post-graduate programs, Orthoptists are given a certificate by the American Association of Certified Orthoptists (AACO), after completing and succeeding in the exams in the US.

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Careers in Optometry

Although, most Optometrists usually work hand in hand with other eye care doctors like Ophthalmologists and Opticians, etc, they can also make a very good career in other areas.

They can work as a Customer Care Associate, Private Practitioner, a professor in a college or university, a trainee optometrist, vision consultant, or optometry researchers.

An optometrist can work solo, in clinics, or in large hospitals. They can also work as business managers, and Optometrists can also manufacture glasses and lenses. Lastly, if they expand their skills and training and get more licenses, they can be an ophthalmologist.

The average optometrist may spend approximately 41 hours per week attending to patients and an average of 2,800 patients consultants in optometric practice per year.

Some Optometrists are in the research field, they make scientific on eye problems and find the to some eye problems, in this case, they work as a team with other eye care professionals. Some of them hire employees, order supplies, and market their business.


Whether or not Optometrists are doctors, they still play a very important role in eye care. They make the job less stressful for other eye care professionals. They are usually the front liners of eye care specialists. They are the ones who get to know the patients and seek more about patients’ eye history. They are the ones that may easily detect diabetes at its early stage and then detect brain tumors through the eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Often Do I Need an Eye Exam?

 The frequency of your appointments depends on your visual health. If you don’t wear contacts or glasses, then you should schedule appointments every two years. People who wear corrective lenses or who are over the age of 60 should visit annually. More frequent checkups might be needed for certain health conditions, such as diabetes, or other eye diseases.

Which doctor should I approach for an eye examination or changes in my vision?

You can visit an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist for vision changes.

What does “optometrist with TPA endorsement” mean?

Therapeutic Pharmaceutical Agents endorsement is a certification that enables Optometrists to prescribe and treat certain conditions of the eye with medicines.

Is the Doctor of Optometry (OD) program a graduate or doctoral program?

The OD program is a second-entry professional degree program, which prepares students for entry into the professional practice of Optometry. It is not a graduate degree, as a student is not required to complete an undergraduate degree prior to admission.

What are the most pressing issues in optometry today?

The single biggest issue facing optometry today is the continued discrimination against ODs by significant numbers of medical insurers in significant parts of the country.


  • I       Is Optometry a doctor?
  • Health-line       Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist: what’s the difference?
  • My vision          Eye doctors: types, specialties, and who to see.
  • Tribune             Are medical doctors against Optometrists being called eye doctors?
  • College Optometrists  “Careers in Optometry”
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