Optometrist, Ophthalmologist or Optician: What’s the Difference?

Optometrist, Ophthalmologist or Optician

Optometrist, Ophthalmologist or Optician: What’s the Difference?

If you find yourself in the position of needing eye care, you might be wondering whom you should book an appointment with: a Kelowna optometrist, ophthalmologist or optician?

Whether your eyesight has degraded due to aging or you have an eye care emergency, understanding the capabilities of these eye professionals, as well as the differences between them, will help you make the right choice. This article will take a look at each one.


An optometrist is an eye doctor who has successfully earned his or her Doctor of Optometry (OD). This can take upwards of eight years of post-secondary education, which is typically broken down as follows:

  • Three years of undergraduate education (usually in sciences)
  • Four years at an accredited university program (sometimes five years)
  • An optional residency training year after receiving a degree

As the front line for vision health, optometrists examine patients’ eyes for visual diseases and disorders, as well as potential health problems such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Aging complications

In addition to prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct refractive errors, an optometrist can also:

  • Prescribe medication to treat a range of eye diseases
  • Provide vision therapy
  • Deliver integrated care for patients by working with other health care providers


An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders. Similar to optometrists, they:

  • Perform eye examinations
  • Prescribe glasses and contacts
  • Write prescriptions for medication

The main difference between the two is that an ophthalmologist is additionally trained to perform eye surgery.


While opticians aren’t doctors, they provide an invaluable service in the world of eye care. They are trained to design and fit a range of apparatus, including:

  • Eyeglasses
  • Contact lenses
  • Low-vision aids
  • Prosthetic ocular devices (i.e. artificial eyes)

Using prescriptions from either a Kelowna optometrist or ophthalmologist, an optician determines the appropriate corrective appliances for a given customer.

In Canada, opticians are required to be licensed in accordance with the standards set by the College of Opticians in the province in which they work.

Which Professional Is Right For Me?

Now that you understand the differences between these three professions, you still might be wondering which is the right one for you. In most cases, an optometrist will have all of the necessary skills and training to diagnose and treat a range of disorders.

For people whose eye conditions require specialized medical or surgical treatment, an ophthalmologist might be more appropriate.

In either case, your family doctor (or pediatrician) will likely have a list of professionals that they recommend based on your needs, and the needs of your children. Other people you can seek word-of-mouth referrals from include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Coworkers

Are you looking for an experienced Kelowna optometrist? Book an appointment with Sun Valley Optometry. We’re conveniently located in the Orchard Park Mall and we offer exams and services to address your eye care needs.

Book an Exam

All of our optometrists are currently accepting new patients. Contact us today and we will be happy to help with your eye care needs.