Overview of the Ophthalmic Profession

OPTICIAN – An optician is a professional who has the responsibility for the dispensing of eyewear, including spectacles, contact lenses, low-vision aids, and accessories.  The optician may fabricate, verify, and fit eyeglasses, contact lenses and other optical devices upon the written prescription of a medical doctor or doctor of optometry.  Once presented with this prescription, an optician is responsible for analyzing and interpreting the prescription to determine the lenses that are best suited to the patient’s lifestyle and visual needs.  Frame selection, including size and material, is then chosen.  The optician takes measurements to insure proper lens placement in the frame, and must verify the accuracy of the finished product.  The glasses are adjusted to the patient by the optician at the time of delivery.  Other duties include occasional adjustments to retain proper fit, replacements, and repairs of lenses and frames. 

OPTOMETRIST - A Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) is specifically educated and trained to examine eyes, diagnose visual problems, and to prescribe eyeglasses, contact lens, low-vision aids, and visual therapy.  In some cases, the Optometrist may also be certified to utilize diagnostic and/or therapeutic ocular medications.  An optometrist may also dispense devices prescribed.  An Optometrist is not a medical doctor.

OPHTHALMOLOGIST - A Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)  who specializes in examining and treating any disease of the eye.  In addition to writing prescriptions for spectacles and contact lenses, the Ophthalmologist treats eye diseases with drugs and surgery.

OPHTHALMIC TECHNICIAN - There are three levels of technical personnel in ophthalmology - ophthalmic assistants, ophthalmic technicians, and ophthalmic technologists. They work under the supervision and direction of an ophthalmologist to perform ophthalmic clinical duties. They are trained to take medical histories, administer eye medications, instruct the patient in care and use of corrective lenses, perform all the ophthalmologic tests necessary for preliminary and highly specific eye exams, assist in ophthalmic surgery, and maintain ophthalmic and surgical instruments, as well as office equipment.

Ophthalmic technologists are trained for additional duties, such as taking ophthalmic photographs, using ultrasound, as well as providing instruction and supervision to other ophthalmic personnel. Ophthalmic technologists are expected to perform at a higher level of expertise than ophthalmic technicians and to exercise considerable clinical technical judgment.

OPTOMETRIC TECHNICIAN - Paraoptometrics are allied health personnel who assist optometrists in providing their highest level of vision care to patients. Front office procedures, chair-side assisting, pre-testing, contact lens instruction, frame styling and fitting, and vision therapy are just a few of the many duties paraoptometrics perform while working directly with an optometrist. There are three levels of paraoptometrics-Certified Paraoptometric (CPO), Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOA), and Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT)

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