The 3 O’s

Have you ever been in a situation where you find yourself wondering which eye care provider can better help you with your eye care needs? It’s one of the most common questions we come across as in our profession. What is the difference between an Optician, Optometrist and Ophthalmologist? We depend heavily on our vision to help us carry out daily tasks, yet we take it for granted. So, it’s very important that we take care of our needs and visit the appropriate eye care professional.

Opticians undergo two years of training to learn how to fabricate and fit vision aids. Vision aids include eyeglasses, prescription sunglasses, contact lenses, low vision aids and safety spectacles. Ideally, you would bring in a prescription (prescribed by an Optometrist) to an Optician. Think of the optician like a pharmacist; they will fill your prescription and order and glaze the lenses you require. Every prescription has an expiry date; it is up to an Optician to ensure it is valid when you present it. Normally, the prescription expires after one year for patients up until the age of 19 and after the age of 65, and after two years for patients aged 19-64.

Optometrists are primary healthcare specialists, also known as the eye doctors. They undergo a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree and are trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormality and problems with general health, such as high blood pressure and/or diabetes. They will conduct a health assessment, prescribe glasses and/or contact lenses, prescribe medication, and refer onwards to a specialist, if required.

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have received a Doctor of Medicine degree and have undergone further training to become eye specialists/surgeons. It is quite common for ophthalmologists to sub-specialise in the different structures of the eye. Their job role is to examine, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries in and around the eye with either medications and/or surgical procedures. Usually, a patient would not visit an Ophthalmologist unless referred by an Optometrist. This reiterates the importance of regular eye examinations with an Optometrist to detect eye conditions in the early stages and treat them in an appropriate and timely manner.

All three professionals work closely together to ensure that their patients receive unparalleled eye-care.