There are several types of specialists for you to contact for help with questions and problems regarding your eyesight. The following definitions were provided by each corresponding professional organization.


(Definition provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. For more information, contact the AAO)
An ophthalmologist is a physician (doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy) who specializes in the comprehensive care of the eyes and visual system in the prevention of eye disease and injury. The ophthalmologist has completed four or more years of college premedical education, four or more years of medical school, one year of internship, and three or more years of specialized medical and surgical training and experience in eye care. The ophthalmologist is a physician who is qualified by lengthy medical education, training and experience to diagnose, treat and manage all eye and visual system problems, and is licensed by a state regulatory board to practice medicine and surgery. The ophthalmologist is the medically trained specialist who can deliver total eye care: primary, secondary and tertiary care services (i.e., vision services, contact lenses, eye examinations, medical eye care and surgical eye care), and diagnose general diseases of the body.


(Definition provided by the American Optometric Association. For more information, contact the AOA)
The optometrist is a health care professional trained and state licensed to provide primary eye care services. These services include comprehensive eye health and vision examinations; diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and vision disorders; the detection of general health problems; the prescribing of glasses, contact lenses, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy and medications; the performing of certain surgical procedures; and the counseling of patients regarding their surgical alternatives and vision needs as related to their occupations, avocations and lifestyle. The optometrist has completed pre-professional undergraduate education in a college or university and four years of professional education at a college of optometry, leading to the doctor of optometry (O.D.) degree. Some optometrists complete a residency.


(Definition provided by the Opticians Association of America. For more information, contact the OAA)
Opticians are professionals in the field of designing, finishing, fitting and dispensing of eyeglasses and contact lenses, based on an eye doctor's prescription. The optician may also dispense colored and specialty lenses for particular needs as well as low-vision aids and artificial eyes.

Certified Ophthalmic Registered Nurses

(Definition provided by the American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses. For more information, contact ASORN at 415/561-8513.)
A certified ophthalmic registered nurse is a registered nurse who has a specialized body of knowledge, skills and experience. Ophthalmic nurses perform ophthalmic examinations, patient assessments based on human responses to ophthalmic diseases, triage, teach patients about their ophthalmic conditions and prevention, assist in eye surgeries and provide emotional support to patients and their families. Ophthalmic registered nurses work in operating rooms, ambulatory clinics, private offices and hospitals. The goal of ophthalmic nursing is to assist patients in preserving and maximizing the vision that they have, prevent disabling eye disease through education, promote independence, and enhance the patient's quality of life. Eligibility for certification (CRNO) requires two years of practice in ophthalmology before taking the written examination.

Certified Orthoptists

(Definition provided by the American Association of Certified Orthoptists.)
The orthoptist, an allied health professional in ophthalmology, works in an adjunctive capacity with an ophthalmologist in the diagnostic and therapeutic assessment of children and adults with strabismus, amblyopia, diplopia and disturbances of binocular function. Expert in the visual assessment of nonverbal patients and in the performance of diagnostic tests used to evaluate visual function, the orthoptist may also be skilled in refraction, visual field testing, electrophysiologic testing, contact lens evaluation and low vision assessment.

Certified Ophthalmic Personnel

(Definition provided by Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.)
These individuals, such as ophthalmic assistants, ophthalmic technicians and ophthalmic medical technologists, are qualified to assist the ophthalmologist in a variety of procedures, from history taking and basic tonometry to visual field testing and ophthalmic photography, depending on the level of certification. Certification in the subspecialty areas of Ophthalmic Surgical Assisting and Assisting in Low Vision are also available. The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology is the certifying agency.


(Definition provided by the American Optometric Association.)
A person who works under the direct supervision of a licensed doctor of optometry, collects patient data, administers routine yet technical tests of the patient's visual capabilities and assists in office management. The paraoptometric may assist the optometrist in providing primary patient care examination and treatment services, including contact lenses, low vision, vision therapy and optical dispensing and office management. State laws may limit, restrict or otherwise affect the duties that may be performed by the paraoptometric.

Optometric Assistant

(Definition provided by the American Optometric Association.)
A paraoptometric who is primarily involved in front office procedures, optical dispensing and contact lens patient education. The optometric assistant may be trained on the job or may have completed a formal education program that is less than one academic year in length, and successful completed the National Optometric Assistant Registry Examination. A registered optometric assistant will be designed by Opt. A., R.

Optometric Technician

(Definition provided by the American Optometric Association.)
A paraoptometric who is prepared for widely diversified job duties through academic and clinical experience. Technicians work directly with optometrists in the areas of patient examination and treatment, including contact lenses, low vision, vision therapy and optical dispensing and office management. The optometric technician may have completed a college program in optometric technology that is a minimum of one academic year in length, or career ladder to the position by successfully completing the Optometric Technician Registry Examination. A registered optometric technician will have the Opt. T., R. designation.