Opticians, Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

In Canada, there are three levels of licensed health care practitioners who specialize in the eye health and care: the Optician, Optometrist and the Ophthalmologist. If you’re unsure as to what kind of care each practitioner offers their patients, don’t worry, you’re not alone. A common misconception is to attribute the roles of one practitioner for another.

Let’s take a look at their roles, shall we?

What are Ophthalmologists?

opthamologist performing surgeryIt’s easiest to think of ophthalmologists as surgeons specifically for eyes, but in truth they are responsible for much more detailed care. Ophthalmologists focus on the anatomy and physiology of the eye, and are trained in the care of ocular diseases. They specialize in the diagnosis of a wider range of diseases and disorders and help oversee the treatment of these conditions. If surgical intervention is required, then they would be the medical practitioner performing these surgeries.

While ophthalmologists study a wide swath of disorders, many will hone their practice to focusing on the identification and treatment of a few, in order to become better specialized in their work and to offer the best care for those conditions possible. An ophthalmologist who focuses on conditions like Advanced Macular Degeneration (AMD) may not be as practiced as one who chooses to focus on Glaucoma management, for example.

In Ontario, ophthalmologists see patients by referral either from a health care physician or an optometrist. They operate out of private practices or community health settings such as hospitals and emergency rooms.

What are Optometrists?

Optometrist performing eye exam using photoptor Optometrists are the primary eye care doctors and the main point of contact between patients and ocular medical care. Optometrists will perform comprehensive eye evaluations, or eye exams. Most patients assume that the eye exam only comprises of a refraction or prescription check for glasses and/or contact lenses, but optometrists are also responsible for important health examinations and maintenance. It’s like seeing your family doctor on a regular basis for a routine checkup; the doctor would be the first step in identifying medical irregularities, as would optometrists to detecting ocular conditions.

In addition to performing checks for glasses and contact lens prescriptions, optometrists are trained in the assessment and co-management of ocular-related systemic conditions – such as diabetes – perform the pre and post-op care for laser vision corrective surgeries, prescribe medications for treatment of ocular issues, remove foreign bodies within their scope, and identify issues that require a secondary referral to a specialist like an ophthalmologist. They typically operate out of private practices, or larger community health settings.

What are Opticians?

optician measuring face of patientIf ophthalmologists are the surgeons, and optometrists the primary care doctors, then opticians are like the pharmacists of ocular care. While they cannot write prescriptions or perform ocular health checks, opticians are responsible for the fabrication of lenses, fitting of glasses dispensing contact lenses and other visual aid devices. In other words, opticians “fill” the glasses and contact lens prescriptions written by optometrists.

Opticians understand the optics behind the numbers written on the prescription page, understand how certain lens materials will behave when providing visual clarity, and can account for the relation between lenses and the frames they are fitted in. An easy way to think about it is that optometrists and ophthalmologists are trained in the biology of eyes and vision, and opticians are trained in the physics of it. By Ontario law, all prescription optical aids (glasses, contact lenses, etc.) must be dispensed by a licensed eye care practitioner. Opticians usually work within glasses opticals and boutiques, our alongside optometrists if their office has a dispensary.

As 360 Eyecare believes in the full scope of care when it comes to eyes and eye exams, each location employs a fully licensed optician to help with your lenses and eyewear needs, and a team of optometrists who are able to navigate the network of ophthalmologists should a referral be required. To book an appointment to speak to any of our practitioners, please contact any of our three offices – 360 Eyecare Rosedale, 360 Eyecare Beaches and 360 Eyecare Metro.