What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is a healthcare provider who specializes in caring for your eyes. They examine, diagnose and treat diseases and disorders that affect your eyes and vision.

Optometrist is pronounced op-TOM-meh-trisst.

Is an optometrist a doctor?

Optometrists aren’t medical doctors (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO). Optometrists have a doctor of optometry (OD) degree and attend optometry school instead of medical school.

How long does it take to become an optometrist?

It takes four years to complete an OD degree, and most optometrists have a four-year undergraduate degree too. Some optometrists complete a one-year residency after optometry school.

What does an optometrist do?

Optometrists diagnose and treat eye diseases and vision problems. They perform eye exams to identify any problems in your vision. Optometrists can prescribe many of the most common treatments you’ll need to correct your vision, including:

What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both eye care specialists.

Optometrists aren’t qualified or licensed to perform surgery on your eyes. Your optometrist might refer you to an ophthalmologist if they identify an issue in your eyes that requires surgery.

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO) who have attended medical school. They’re qualified to diagnose and treat any condition that can affect your eyes and vision, including performing surgery on your eye.

What is the difference between an optometrist and an optician?

Optometrists can diagnose and treat issues in your eyes. They’ll also conduct your regular eye exams.

Opticians work with optometrists and ophthalmologists. They usually have a two-year technical degree or certification. They’ll fit you for glasses, contacts or other vision correction aids. They can also adjust or replace your glasses, lenses or frames.

What kinds of eye problems does an optometrist treat?

Optometrists treat and diagnose common health and vision issues, including:

Optometrists can also diagnose diseases that affect your eye, including:

Optometrists don’t perform surgery, so you might need to visit an ophthalmologist if you need an operation on your eyes.

When should I have my eyes examined?

Having your eyes and vision checked regularly can help your optometrist or other healthcare provider identify problems right away. How often you should get your eyes checked usually depends on your age:

  • Kids: An eye care specialist should check your child’s eyes during their first year of life, and then every one to two years after that.
  • Adults 18-55: every one to two years
  • Adults older than 55: Every year

You might need your eyes checked more often than this if you wear glasses, contacts or need another type of visual aid. Ask your optometrist or provider if you need eye exams more often.

How do I take care of my eyes?

Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your vision. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, have your eyes examined regularly so your provider can adjust your prescription as often as necessary.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any symptoms in your eyes, including:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Double vision (diplopia).
  • New pain that doesn’t go away in a few days.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Your vision is getting noticeably worse.
  • Redness.
Care at Cleveland Clinic

Frequently Asked Questions

What questions should I ask my optometrist?

  • How often should I have my eyes checked?
  • Which type of corrective lenses will I need?
  • Which tests will I need?
  • Will I need any medication for my eyes or vision?
  • Am I a good candidate for vision correction surgery?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

An optometrist can care for almost any condition that affects your eyes or vision. If you do end up needing more advanced care or a surgical procedure, your optometrist can refer you to an ophthalmologist or surgeon.

Get regular eye exams as part of your overall health maintenance, and talk to your provider as soon as you notice any changes in your eyes or vision.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/26/2022.


  • American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician. (https://www.aapos.org/glossary/difference-between-an-ophthalmologist-optometrist-and-optician) Accessed 9/26/2022.
  • American Optometric Association. What’s a doctor of optometry? (https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/whats-a-doctor-of-optometry?sso=y) Accessed 9/26/2022.
  • National Eye Institute. Finding an Eye Doctor. (https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/healthy-vision/finding-eye-doctor) Accessed 9/26/2022.
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Optometrists. (https://stats.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Optometrists.htm) Accessed 9/26/2022.

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