Many Canadians know about the importance of regular eye exams and having proper eyewear. But not everyone is aware of the different roles that eye care professionals play to ensure their eyes remain healthy. In fact, the terms “optometrist,” “optician,” and “ophthalmologist’ often get confused or are used interchangeably.
With that in mind, we thought we’d help break down the differences between these three roles and show how these unique eye care professionals work together to help care for your eyes.
What is an Optometrist?
An optometrist is a primary eye care provider who can conduct eye exams, write eyeglass prescriptions, and treat eye diseases with topical eye drops.
Canadian optometrists are required to have a degree at a post-secondary institution before obtaining their Doctor of Optometry. This training takes approximately 8 years. The most common optometry schools for optometrists in BC are Pacific University and The University of Waterloo. Here in Canada, optometrists are overseen by provincial colleges that ensure all qualifications are up to date.
An optician is a fully trained vision care technician who specializes in fitting eyeglass lenses and frames.
In Canada, a licensed optician has a diploma with an accredited ophthalmic institute. This profession is becoming more uncommon. Most of the people dispensing eyewear undergo training as a ophthalmic dispenser/optometric assistant through courses and on the job experience in an optometrists dispensary.
These three professions are highly skilled in current lens technologies, frame selection, and eyewear fitting. Unlike an optometrist, they are not legally able to write prescriptions, or diagnose and treat eye diseases. Opticians and optometrists work hand-in-hand to ensure a patient’s vision needs are identified and corrected.
An ophthalmologist is an eye surgeon and an expert for treating eye diseases with oral medications, topical medications, lasers, and injections.
In Canada, medical school graduates must complete a residency that’s a minimum of five years before becoming an ophthalmologist. In the last two years of their residency, ophthalmologists will carry out extensive surgical training, and many ophthalmologists will continue on with a post-graduate fellowship for an additional one to two years to specialize in a particular component, such as the cornea, eye-turns, retina, or neuro-ophthalmology.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists work hand-in-hand to deliver a high level of eye care to patients, with optometrists often referring patients who require medical or surgical treatment to a local ophthalmologist.
For a complete eye exam and expert eyewear advice visit Nuvue Optometry in Spall Plaza today!
Dr Devin W Almond, BSc, OD