We call them eye doctors. But they are Eye Care Professionals. You know who I am talking about. We see the advertisements for these eye care professionals around us. “Local Eye Care Clinic”. Then we make the appointment. We get their and someone takes us to an office. We have those few puffs of air blown in our eyes. Then these eye care professionals put drops in our eyes so we can no longer see.
Who are all these people? Am I seeing the right person? Do I have the right Eye Care Professionals taking care of me?
There in not enough importance being placed of periodic eye examinations or vision examinations . Yet they play a critical part in you and I having a solid preventive health care plan. An eye exam, or a vision exam, can reveal a lot about your general health. This is why it is so important to get regular eye checkups. Even if you don’t wear glasses or contact lenses, you still need these eye exams. Which brings us to the question, who is the right Eye Care specialists to visit.
An eye care professional (ECP) is an individual who provides a service related to the eyes or vision. It is any healthcare worker involved in eye care, from one with a small amount of post-secondary training to practitioners with a doctoral level of education. Wikipedia lists the following eye care professionals (not in the same order).
Oculist is a rather out of date and old-fashioned term. If you had lived in previous centuries, when you had trouble seeing street signs, reading small print, or suddenly had horrible eye pain, then you would have visited an oculist. Simply put, this was a doctor who dealt with eye disorders. We would call them an Eye Doctor today.
Orthoptics is an ophthalmic field pertaining to the evaluation and treatment of patients with disorders of the visual system with an emphasis on binocular vision and eye movements.
Most Orthoptists commonly work in pediatric ophthalmology settings. While Orthoptists serve patients of all ages, many of patients are children. This is due to the nature of many binocular disorders found in children. Adult care in the field of Orthoptics is also uniquely challenging and rewarding. This is typically found in settings of ophthalmology specific to neuro-ophthalmology and adult eye muscle disorders.
An ocularist is a thoroughly trained professional who is skilled in the art of fitting, painting and fabricating custom ocular prostheses. In addition to creating custom ocular prostheses, and providing long-term care through periodic examinations, an ocularist provides the patient with complete instructions on the care and maintenance of their prosthesis.
Ophthalmic medical personnel
Ophthalmic Medical Personnel are also known as Ophthalmic medical technicians or as allied ophthalmic personnel. They work with an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) to provide patient care by performing eye-related clinical tasks. These tasks include:
- Taking patient medical histories
- Instructing patients about medications, tests and procedures
- Performing vision and diagnostic tests
- Assisting with patient procedures
- Coordinating patient scheduling
- Supervising and training other allied ophthalmic personnel
- Performing office management duties
Unlike a dispensing optician, one who fit contact lenses and glasses, ophthalmic medical technicians work directly with an ophthalmologist conducting patient eye examinations and tests. They are “physician extenders”. This allows an ophthalmologist to see more patients in a day.
An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye care and vision care. Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat a wider range of conditions than optometrists and opticians. Typical training includes a four-year college degree followed by at least eight years of additional medical training. After completing their years of training and education, Ophthalmologists are licensed to practice medicine and surgery.
An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. Being a medical doctor, an ophthalmologist may recognize other health problems that aren’t directly related to the eyes. When these health problems are found, they refer the individual to the right medical doctors for treatment.
While ophthalmologists are trained to care for all eye problems and conditions, some ophthalmologists may specialize further in a specific area of medical or surgical eye care. Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders.
Optometry is a vision care specialty that is concerned with the health of the eyes, the visual system, and related structures.
An optometrist is a health care professional who specializes in function and disorders of the eye, detection of eye disease, and some types of eye disease management.
Note that an optometrist is not a medical doctor. However, an optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after:
- completing 2 to 4 years of college-level education,
- followed by four years of optometry school.
They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.
Optometrists are licensed by state regulatory boards that determine their scope of practice, which may vary from state to state. An optometrist will have the initials “O.D.” (Doctor of Optometry) after his or her name.
An optician is usually the first person that you will encounter when seeking out vision care. Opticians are directly involved in customer service. While most Opticians work in vision care stores, there are other opticians who work for optometrists that practice in more of a medical setting.
Opticians frequently spend more time with customers than anyone else during the vision care experience. An optician may be found:
- Fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses,
- following prescriptions written by ophthalmologists or optometrists.
- evaluate the prescription to determine lens specifications and recommend eyeglass frames, lenses and lens coatings after considering the prescription and the customer’s occupation, habits and facial features.
- measure clients’ eyes, including the distance between the centers of the pupils and the distance between the eye surface and the lens.
- opticians may use a lensometer to record the present eyeglass prescription.
- obtain a customer’s previous record or verify a prescription with the examining optometrist or ophthalmologist.
As a side note, the role of an optometrist is not limited to customer service.
Vision therapy is a sub-specialty of developmental optometry that improves, enhances and develops visual performance through a prescribed treatment program that is designed to create and establish new neural patterns. It is highly debated still today.
Vision therapy is perhaps one of the most controversial topics in vision care. Some eye doctors are strong advocates for vision therapy and testify to its benefits. This is especially true for certain vision problems of children. Note that not all eye care professionals are convinced of vision therapy’s effectiveness. They do not recommend it.
A vision therapist is usually either an Orthoptist or Optometrist. They specifically work with patients that require vision therapy. Therapy like this is generally used in patients who need visual correction, but for whom the corrective lenses are not enough to reverse or correct the condition.
Vision therapy is usually performed with children who develop problems with their vision, typically because they are using their eyes up close. These Visual Therapist are usually optometrists who specialize in children eye care.
To have the ability to specialize in vision therapy, eye doctors must complete extensive post-graduate training beyond their optometric degree. Upon completion of the training, they are eligible to sit for their national boards to become fully certified as specialists in children’s vision.
Vision therapists typically use prisms, eye patches, filtered lenses, and computerized systems to conduct therapy sessions.
Each of the individuals who provides a service related to your eye care or vision care is an eye care professional. They have studied and taken time to learn their profession. Just like your doctor’s office, each position is critical and important. From the receptionist to the Ophthalmologist, they are there so you can say “improve my eyesight.”