An eye care professional is an individual who provides a service related to the eyes or vision. It is a general term that can refer to any healthcare worker involved in eye care, from one with a small amount of post-secondary training to practitioners with a doctoral level of education.
An optometrist is defined by the World Council of Optometry (a member of the World Health Organisation) as follows:
Optometry is a healthcare profession that is autonomous, educated, and regulated (licensed/registered), and optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology describes an ophthalmologist as follows:
A medical doctor who specializes in all aspects of eye care including diagnosis, management, and surgery of ocular diseases and disorders.
Two important distinctions are evident in these definitions. First, ophthalmologists are medical doctors and have attended medical school and specialize in surgical care of the eye, while optometrists are doctors of optometry who have attended optometry school and specialize in the general care of the eye and vision. Second, ophthalmologists are responsible for surgical treatment or diseases and disorders. Optometrists "provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye" with limited surgical involvement.
There are also important similarities. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists treat patients with medications and optical aids. Both perform screenings for common ocular problems affecting children (such as amblyopia and strabismus) and the adult population (such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy). Optometrists usually refer to ophthalmologists for further assessment for surgical treatment of ocular diseases. Both are required to participate in ongoing continuing education courses to maintain licensure and stay current on the latest standards of care.