What is the difference between opticians and optometrists? This is a question that has caused some confusion to most. People who have trouble with their eyesight just go to an optical shop for a check-up to know if they need eyeglasses or contact lenses. Most do not know if the professional assisting them is an optician or an optometrist.
Opticians and optometrists are not the same. They have different expertise when dealing with eye-care. You should be aware of the differences for you might not be in the right clinic for your eye trouble.
There are other professionals that specialise in eye care and all of them work together to keep our eyes healthy. The first in line with regards to eye care are the Dispensing Opticians and Optometrists (also known as Ophthalmic Opticians). These are then followed by OMP's (Ophthalmic Medical Practitioners), Ophthalmologists and Orthoptists.
When you go to the opticians in the UK, they can either be just dispensing opticians or optometrists. Most clinical shops have both, for convenience.
Dispensing opticians do not write prescriptions, but only give them out. They provide glasses, contact lenses or optical prosthesis based on prescriptions written by optometrists. Most dispensing opticians are only qualified to fit glasses, but there are also many who are qualified to fit contacts and prosthesis. In a nutshell, an optician makes eyeglasses.
To qualify, an optician must have a 2-year course and has at least a year's experience working under a qualified optometrist. After the one year training he could register to the Association of British Dispensing Opticians so he could open his own optical shop should he choose to.
Optometrists or ophthalmic opticians, on the other hand, are eye care professionals who examine our eyes and fill out prescriptions for eye correction and improving overall eye health. Optometrists are dispensing opticians too but are also qualified to diagnose, prescribe and treat eye problems. They can find out what is wrong with your eyes and in the process fit you with the right eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Many older people also rely on optometrists to let them know if they get early onset or possibly even avoid cataracts, glaucoma and other serious eye diseases. They can then be referred on to specialists, when necessary.
Like the dispensing opticians, optometrists in the UK are also required by the General Optical Council to register with the College of Optometrists. The title MVOptom and FCOptom may be added to their names but you should know that optometrists are not medical doctors.
OMP's, ophthalmologists and orthoptists are the medical doctors for eye care. Serious degenerative eye diseases should be treated by a medical doctor specialising in eye diseases. OMP's can examine, diagnose and treat eye problems but they are not qualified to do surgery and other procedures of the same nature. Ophthalmologists are the real medical doctors as they can do surgical procedures including laser surgery. They can also diagnose and treat eye diseases. Orthoptists are medical doctors who specialise in eye movement problems.