WHAT IS AN OPTOMETRIST
BY JENNY STEWART, GENERAL & THERAPEUTIC OPTOMETRIST GRANT & DOUGLAS OPTOMETRY & EYEWEAR
Do you feel like your vision isn’t what it used to be? Do you find driving at night a challenge, or perhaps you have been out fishing with the kids and you can hardly see the tiny fishing line to thread on to the hook?
So you go to your doctor who tells you to see an optometrist but you’re not sure if you should see an optometrist, an optician, or an ophthalmologist? What is the difference?
An optometrist is a registered primary health care practitioner regulated by the government. Only a registered optometrist may use the title and prescribe glasses or contact lenses. Some optometrists can also prescribe a range of medicines for treating eye conditions such as infections and allergies. This is a therapeutically qualified optometrist. Overseas, optometrists are sometimes called opticians or eye doctors.
An optometrist will need to examine your eyes before deciding what is wrong and how to treat you. It’s important to understand that without a proper diagnosis, a number of sight-threatening conditions might develop unchecked. Without treatment these disorders can progressively destroy your sight and blindness can result. According to WHO 75 per cent of blindness in the world is preventable. If you need spectacles or contact lenses then you can expect that your optometrist will prescribe the most appropriate correction. Prescribing decisions after examination will be made using direct measurements made by your optometrist during the examination, along with consideration of your responses to the various tests that you will experience. This is because vision is a very complex human sense that involves both the eyes and the brain working together to interpret what we see.
This will take time as there is a lot to cover.
More than a million eye exams are performed by our optometrists in NZ each year. Only around 60 per cent of people examined need to be prescribed glasses or contact lenses. The remaining 40 per cent require eye health care, active monitoring, medical treatment or just reassurance that all is well.
For some eye diseases, treatment with a medicine is necessary and sometimes a person with suspected eye disease will be referred to an ophthalmologist.
Ophthalmologists are specifically trained to diagnose and treat serious or abnormal eye conditions, usually by surgery or therapeutic means. You often need a referral from an optometrist or GP to see an ophthalmologist.
Dispensing opticians are qualified and registered in New Zealand to interpret and dispense an optical prescription written by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. This may include taking facial measurements and giving advice on spectacle lenses, frames and other optical aids. A dispensing optician does not examine eyes or write prescriptions.
It is all a little confusing but if you are unsure, ask your optometrist.
Vision is a very complex human sense that involves both the eyes and the brain working together to interpret what we see.