Eye Care Specialists

Eye Care Specialists


Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in eye care. Ophthalmology is a surgical subspecialty. Ophthalmologists are licensed by provincial medical boards to practice medicine and are certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Ophthalmologists are certified to:

  • Diagnose and treat all forms of eye disease.
  • Prescribe and administer diagnostic and therapeutic drugs.
  • Prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses.
  • Treat eye injuries.
  • Perform surgery on the eye.

Optometrists (ODs) are primary eye care providers, who have at least 3 years of undergraduate science work and they have also completed at least 4 years of  a university program in optometry. They are not medical doctors, but licensed and university educated doctors of optometry. Optometrists can:

  • Diagnose refractive errors and prescribe corrective lenses or other therapies.
  • Detect signs of disease and refer you to other health providers, when appropriate.
  • Administer diagnostic drugs.
  • Prescribe some medications.

Opticians are skilled technicians. They do not test vision, prescribe corrective lenses, or diagnose or treat eye diseases. All provinces require completion of a 1- to 4-year training program. Opticians can complete more training to become licensed to test vision and fit contact lenses. Opticians can:

  • Fill prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses.
  • Help you select appropriate eyeglass frames and measure the eyes to ensure a proper fit.
  • Fit eyeglass lenses into frames.
  • Adjust eyeglass frames for comfort and proper lens position.
  • Clean and polish contact lenses.

Making the choice

Both ophthalmologists and optometrists can diagnose refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, and prescribe corrective lenses, such as glasses or contact lenses.

Ophthalmologists can diagnose all disorders that affect the eye. They can carry out any medical or surgical treatment.

In a few provinces, even where they are allowed to administer diagnostic drugs, optometrists are not allowed to diagnose or treat eye disease. They may observe signs of disease and refer you to an ophthalmologist.

In some provinces, optometrist's fees may be covered depending on your age and whether or not you have medical problems. Ophthalmologists' fees are covered by your provincial health plan, although there may be costs you have to pay yourself.


Adaptation Date: 6/14/2023

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC