Opticians, optometrists, ophthalmologists: One and the same to many consumers

January 5, 2006

Many consumers, including eyeglass and contact lens wearers, are unclear of the differences among eye-care professionals, according to results from the National Consumers League's (NCL) Web-based survey. The survey of 600 adults was funded by an unrestricted grant from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Many consumers, including eyeglass and contact lens wearers, are unclear of the differences among eye-care professionals, according to results from the National Consumers League's (NCL) Web-based survey. The survey of 600 adults was funded by an unrestricted grant from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The survey showed 30% of respondents thought optometrists earned medical degrees and nearly 50% thought optometrists could be board certified. The survey found most consumers would prefer their eye-care professional to have a medical degree for performing surgeries (including laser), injecting/prescribing medications, and performing emergency care.

"When it comes to eye care, it is vital for consumers to understand who can provide what kind of services," said NCL President Linda Golodner. "There are a number of different types of professionals on the eye-care team; and unfortunately, many consumers, as seen in our survey, don't differentiate among them."

Consumers can learn more about members of the eye-care team at the NCL's Web site, www.nclnet.org. The site offers tips and a checklist of questions for patients to ask their eye-care provider about treatments and services. A white paper about the state of eye care in the United States is also provided.