There’s a tendency to make an appointment with your ‘optician’, tell your boss you need an hour off for the ‘optician’ and even post to your social media accounts that you could be getting new glasses from the ‘optician’. We all know what the word means and it’s the word we’ve always used, but if you look closely at the window of your eye-care professional, you might well find that you’re dealing with an Optometrist.

This newer word isn’t simply an en vogue adjective that’s become recently fashionable, it actually draws an important distinction between the different areas of eye care.

Optometrists were previously known as Ophthalmic Opticians and they act as the primary healthcare specialists trained specifically to examine eyes.  This ‘front line’ of eye care detects defects in vision, any trauma or injuries to the eye, diagnoses disease relating to the eye and abnormalities or problems with general health, such as hypertension or diabetes.  Your optometrist will be able to not only able to identify any problems, but offer advice and guide you through any corrective vision lenses you need, either as glasses or contacts if suitable.

Optometry requires at least three years of study at university and then a further year of training and supervision.  This year of training is the pre-registration stage and must be completed before your optometrist is qualified.  Our Optometrist is a member of the Association of Optometrists.

While all of this is quite reassuring, for some people it doesn’t differ wildly from what they would understand to be covered by the word ‘optician’. I t’s worth noting that optician can often refer to a dispensing optician, who may supply and fit spectacles.  They can also, with further training fit contact lenses, but cannot make diagnoses or monitor eye conditions or diseases.

It’s probably also worth noting that if you’re attending a medical practice for your eye appointment, it’s likely to be with an ophthalmic medical practitioner.  This is a medical doctor specialising in eye care, performing much the same role as an optometrist to examine eyes and test sight, but they instead report to the General Medical Council.

If you (or often your child) has a problem with the balance of their eyes, they may attend to see an Orthoptist.  They mainly deal with how the eyes work together when problems occur such as strabismus (commonly referred to as a squint), amblyopia (sometimes called lazy eye); and after traumatic injuries, tumours, head injuries, diabetes and stroke.

If you’re to undergo eye surgery, then your doctor will be an Ophthalmologist.  Working mainly in hospitals, they specialise in eye diseases, treatments and surgery.

While it’s tempting to refer to all eye-care professionals as opticians, the reality is that your eyes are so complicated and may require such varying levels of care that there are a number of dedicated roles which each have their own specific title.

Image source: Wikicommons