What Is The Difference Between An Optometrist And An Optician?

There are many terminologies in the medical profession that may not be properly understood by the average person. These terms need to be properly defined to ensure that patients make the right decisions whenever they need medical attention. After all, you want the right medical practitioner to offer treatment. When it comes to vision problems, there are three names that often confuse patient who want to visit an eye clinic or hospital. These are; opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. When you have a problem with your vision or eyes, which professional or eye expert should you go to? Well, to make an informed decision, you need to know about the definitions of these terms as well as the job descriptions of individuals who practice in these fields. Read on to get the answer to the question – what is the difference between an optometrist and an optician?

Optometrist Defined

An optometrist is an eye specialist who is trained and licensed to offer primary vision care. They normally test sight and offer treatment. As eye specialists, their work is to diagnose, treat and manage vision problems. If you feel pain in your eyes or you have a vision problem, you should visit an optometrist for tests and treatment once the problem has been diagnosed. It is important to note, however, that an optometrist is not a medical doctor as they do not undergo the same training nor do they have the same license. A medical doctor who has specialized in eye and vision care is referred to as an ophthalmologist. If a case seems complicated, an optometrist will refer the patient to an ophthalmologist for specialist care.

Optician Defined

An optician is a professional who has been trained to design and fit devices meant for sight correction. This includes eyeglasses and contact lenses. Once the vision problem has been diagnosed and clearly defined by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, a prescription is prepared and taken to the optician, whose job is to design lenses to correct the vision problem and fit them into frames that are not only functional, but also suit the patient’s personal preferences.

What is the Difference Between an Optometrist and an Optician

Now that you know the definitions and job descriptions of opticians as well as optometrists, you might have already noticed the differences between the two professions. Below are short summaries of those differences.

i) Job Description

While an optician is only responsible for designing and fitting devices meant for sight correction, an optometrist can test sight, diagnose vision and eye problems. They also offer treatment for injuries, diseases and defects affecting vision or the eyes and its structural components. Optometrists can also write prescriptions while and optician cannot. This is the main difference between the two professions.

ii) Education

While optometrists may not be medical doctors, they go through a rigorous formal training program in vision and eye care. This includes four years in optometry school, where they earn a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. After getting the degree, optometrists still have to complete at least three years of college before they can be licensed to practice on their own. On the other hand, an optician may or may not be formally trained. In some states, there are institutions, such as community colleges, that have been accredited to offer associate degrees in optometry, which normally take around two years to complete. Some opticians only have a certificate in optometry, which can be attained within a year. However, the vast majority of opticians receive on-the-job training. They often start out as optician’s assistants through an apprenticeship program. After completing these apprenticeships, aspiring opticians must pass an exam administered by the National Contact Lens Examiners board as well as the American Board of Optometry. Successful candidates are then licensed to practice as opticians in their state.

The key to safeguarding your vision when you have an eye problem, whether it’s an injury you recently sustained, a disease affecting the eyes or partial loss of vision for one reason or another, lies in choosing the right medical professional. When you have an eye or vision problem, you should visit a hospital or eye clinic to see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. If the optometrist succeeds in diagnosing the eye or vision problem, they will offer treatment and prescribe medication to help with the condition. If they do not manage to identify the root cause of the problem, or the eye/vision problem requires surgery, the optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist.

If the vision problem can be corrected with the help of contact lenses or eyeglasses, the optometrist will write a prescription for the glasses or contract lenses, which you will be required to take to an optician. The optician will design the prescribed lenses and fit them to a frame to make eyeglasses that will correct your vision problem.


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