The Three “O’s” of Eye Care – What’s the difference?

08 May

Patient shown receiving an eye examinationAt Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City, John Henahan is an eye doctor known as an optometrist.  This is one of the three “O’s” that work together in the eye care delivery system; optometrists, ophthalmologists and opticians.

Optometrists are eye doctors who spend at least 4 years after college training to perform eye exams, treat eye diseases and fit contact lenses. They represent the largest group of eye care professionals and are present in more than 6,500 communities.  They are the only eye doctor in more than 3,500 of those communities, and provide most of the eye exams performed in the United States.

Many optometrists, including Dr. Henahan, elect to gain additional training during an optometric residency program.  Dr. Henahan completed additional training in ocular disease and treatment.  Others specialize in areas as varied as childhood visual development, rehabilitative optometry (for those suffering vision loss from stroke, injury and the like) or other areas.

Optometrists also diagnose and treat the majority of eye ailments, including pink eye, eye injury and aging related eye diseases.

When surgery is required, optometrists often refer patients to ophthalmologists. They are doctors specially trained in medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases.  Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who spend at least 3 years of specialty training in the treatment and surgical care of eye disease after they have completed their medical degree.  Some gain even more specialized training in treating disease of specific parts of the eye, such as retina specialists or glaucoma specialists.

Some ophthalmologists also perform routine eye exams as part of their practice.  This can sometimes lead to patient confusion about which type of eye doctor is most appropriate to see.  In most cases you will get excellent eye care from either type of doctor.  Most people start with an optometrist for an initial evaluation.

A good rule of thumb is that optometrists will refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary for surgery or other medical treatment that they do not manage themselves.  This is a big advantage, since optometrists have a very good idea of who the most talented specialists are in each area of the eye, whereas patients have to rely on word of mouth from other patients or advertisements to try and make that determination.

The third “O” in eye care is optician.  Opticians are experts in the fitting, adjustment and repair of eyeglasses.  Some opticians have also pursued training in fitting of contact lenses, but that must be done under the supervision of either an optometrist or ophthalmologist.  Opticians cannot perform eye exams and as such almost always work in conjunction with one of the other two “O’s”.

Although there are some areas of overlap, the three “O’s” generally each specialize in a different part of the eye care universe.

At Spectrum Eyecare, Dr. Henahan prides himself on providing comprehensive eye exams using the most advanced diagnostic instruments available. In just the past year, the practice has added more than $75,000 in advanced testing equipment to ensure that patients of the practice receive the best care available.  Dr. Henahan partners with a number of specialist ophthalmologists to provide additional medical and surgical care when warranted.  The skilled opticians at Spectrum Eyecare help ensure that you see and look your best in eyeglasses.

To contact Spectrum Eyecare, call 770-487-0667 or visit them on the web at

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