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Dr. Ukandu Rightway: Knowing the Difference Between an Optician, Optometrist and Ophthalmologist

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It is not unusual to hear people say they want to visit an optician at a clinic or hospital to check their eyes. There is a lot of confusion when referring to an optometrist as an optician, or an ophthalmologist as an optometrist, and vice versa. In some cases, people are not even sure of who they ought to see when it comes to their eye health. Even in the health sector, you would still find health professionals, clinicians, and academicians mixing up all three eye care professionals. I have seen this on referral notes and medical reports.

The eye is very complex, and studying to become an optometrist or ophthalmologist is as stringent as they come. Apart from eye health, which is of utmost importance, many systemic conditions can be indicated or diagnosed just by understanding how the eye works.

An optician is a technician or a technical practitioner, typically trained for a Diploma program of 2 years, although the curriculum is dependent on institute or country requirements. An optician handles the fixing, fitting, grinding and dispensing of lenses which include prescription lenses recommended for a patient/client by an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist). Prescription lenses are usually for correction of refractive error and the testing/examination is typically carried out by an optometrist, then sent to an optician to fix and dispense the prescription lenses. An optician is not a doctor nor an eye doctor.

The optometrist is a trained primary health professional, for a degree program for a minimum of six (6) years with clinical exposure in learning in health sciences, anatomy, physiology, psychology, clinical pharmacology, and so on. Awarded a Doctor of Optometry degree after being inducted into the profession, and then proceeds for a twelve calendar month internship training as an intern/house officer in an accredited hospital or clinic, followed by the mandatory national youth service with a practising licence. Some optometrists get additional clinical training or complete a specialty fellowship after optometry school.

According to the World Health Organisation affiliated World Council of Optometry, “Optometry is a healthcare profession that is autonomous, educated, and regulated (licensed/registered), and optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.”

Optometrists are leaders in primary eye health care; they help patients take the first step toward healthier eyes and healthier bodies. If a disease or other conditions are detected, optometrists can help navigate patients to the right prevention plans or the next steps in official diagnosis and treatment. Referrals can also be made to medical doctors, neurologists, physiotherapists, psychologists, oncologists, ophthalmologists, and other specialists depending on patients’ needs.

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in eye care. They study and train for at least 6 years to become medical doctors with an MBBS degree and spend an extra year training as an intern or house officer. They also attend the one year compulsory national service. To become an ophthalmologist, further rigorous studies and training for extra years is required. Ophthalmologists are eye surgeons and, in addition to other eye care services, also perform eye surgeries.

It is worthy of note that your first point of contact for any eye health concerns should be an optometrist. Optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians often work as a team to take care of you.

 

 

Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

Dr. Ukandu Rightway is an Optometrist, Public health enthusiast and Clinic Manager of Visionplus Specialist Eye Clinic Ikeja. He obtained his first degree, Doctor of Optometry, from Imo State University, Nigeria and currently running a Masters Degree in public health at the College of Medicine, Department of Community health, University of Lagos. He is passionate about community based interventions in Public health, healthcare in Nigeria and Africa. He is committed to improving community health and development outcomes in Nigeria. He publishes eye health and disease treatment/prevention/management content on a clinic blog.

23 Comments

  1. Mitchell

    January 13, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    This was very helpful. I had been wondering about the difference between the three.

    5
  2. geetmishra.com

    January 14, 2022 at 7:41 am

    Having read your article. I appreciate you are taking the time and the effort for putting this useful information together. Visit

    4
  3. Omeh Abraham

    January 14, 2022 at 6:09 pm

    This is very concise and informative, you took time to bring home the basis of eye care.nice work

  4. Uzoma

    January 14, 2022 at 6:30 pm

    This was a beautiful read Dr.

  5. Sharon

    January 14, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Truly informative piece!!

  6. Gideon Edekunu

    January 14, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, it was absolutely helpful.

  7. Udogu Darlet

    January 14, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    Very apt. Keep it up doc.

  8. Akunna

    January 14, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you for the insight

  9. Obumneke

    January 14, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    Amazing!!!!!….very informative and detailed article

    I want to take this time to appreciate all opticians , optometrists and opthalmologists out there…… This is amazing work you guys are doing.. KEEP IT UP❤️

  10. Ucheamaka

    January 14, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    Righto, this is very educating honestly for lay persons.

  11. Laura Orem

    January 14, 2022 at 9:15 pm

    Very Insightful !!

  12. Esther

    January 14, 2022 at 9:16 pm

    Great Job Dr. Ukandu. Very educative.

  13. Ayo

    January 14, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    This is so helpy
    Thank you Dr Rightway

  14. chidoziem

    January 14, 2022 at 10:40 pm

    honestly, this text was developed specially for me. even though in the public health space, i still appreciate how simplified but detailed the explanation is. thank you for taking the time and pain to put “us” right.

  15. Mela

    January 14, 2022 at 10:43 pm

    Very educative… thanks

    1
  16. chidoziem

    January 14, 2022 at 10:59 pm

    this explanation couldn’t be more simplified and detailed. i really needed to see this to grasp it totally. now i can tell the difference between the professions and also help others with referrals

  17. Dozie Ezeh

    January 14, 2022 at 11:04 pm

    As someone who actually never could make the distinction, I consider this information that should be put out there more often, and published on a lot more platforms. Thank you for providing much needed clarity on the subject.

  18. Amaka

    January 15, 2022 at 7:49 am

    This is a very useful information. I never knew the difference prior to now. Thank you.

  19. Happiness

    January 15, 2022 at 8:37 am

    This is really a good piece of information, thanks Dr for putting this out.

  20. Zizi

    January 15, 2022 at 8:56 am

    I didn’t know they were different. I learnt something here. Nice piece

  21. Abu

    January 16, 2022 at 11:31 am

    Can an optometrist become an optamologist? Or would that entail going back to medschool?

  22. OHAKWE UCHECHUKWU LAWRENCE

    January 16, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    Very useful especially to those who aren’t aware of the differences. Keep up the good work bro.

  23. Chinelo

    January 16, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    I really appreciate this clarification. Now,am very sure of what I know. We learn everyday without paying a dime.

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