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Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, Optician. Confused?

November 14, 2011

Have you heard of these terms? I have heard these terms used interchangeably by some.

The following is what each word means in Singapore:

Ophthalmologist

A medical doctor trained to treat eye diseases. This person can diagnose an illness of the eye and treat the patient using medications and perform surgery on the eye. He can also check spectacle power (perform refraction) and prescribe spectacles – he writes the power of the spectacles and the patient brings these sheet of paper to the optical shop to get the spectacles.

Optometrist

Optometrists are primary eye care providers who specialize in performing eye examinations. Through the tests, they can detect eye-infections and common eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, all of which may be treatable if detected early.

In general, optometrists are qualified to:

  1. Perform refraction (spectacle power check) on patients.
  2. Prescribe glasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
  3. Perform visual examination on patients and refer them to other healthcare practitioners such as ophthalmologist for further management if any eye abnormalities/diseases are detected.
  4. Perform any other type of practice of eye care which is part of the practice of opticianry (eg. dispensing and fitting of glasses and contact lenses

Optician

There are 3 different categories of opticians in Singapore. All of them are equipped with the skills to dispense and fit glasses based on prescriptions from optometrists or ophthalmologists.

The opticians are registered in the following categories:

1. Opticians (Dispensing Only) – this category of opticians are only qualified to dispense and fit glasses.
2. Opticians (Refraction and Dispensing) – this category of opticians are qualified to:
a. Perform refraction on patients who are 8 years of age or older.
b. Dispense and fit glasses to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
3. Opticians (Contact Lens Practice) – this category of opticians are qualified to:
a. Perform refraction on patients who are 8 years of age or older.
b. Dispense and fit glasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
c. Provide aftercare to patients, including monitoring to detect, prevent and manage problems or complications arising from the use of contact lenses.

 

Optometrists in other countries have slightly different responsibilities. For example, in North America, optometrists graduate with a degree known as Doctor of Optometry (O.D.). They use the title of Doctor, which means they have a Dr. in front of their names. They are allowed to prescribe eye medications and in some states in the USA, they are also allowed to perform certain surgeries. Most optometrists in Singapore have a Diploma in Optometry from a local polytechnic. Some have a Degree in Optometry from a University. An optometrist in Singapore can also have a Dr. to his name if he has a PhD in Optometry. Optometrists in Singapore do not perform eye surgeries and they do not prescribe medications.

Optometrists in Singapore have a vital primary eye care role. They see many people who feel they do not see well and therefore walk into an optical shop for help. A refraction will tell if spectacles will help improve vision, if not, it usually means there is some other eye disease which can be detected and then referred to the ophthalmologist for treatment.

The information in this post can be found on the Ministry of Health’s Optometrists and Opticians Board website.

 

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