What is an optometrist?

What is an Optometrist?

Sight is a crucial aspect of our daily lives, that we often take for granted. Every so often we need to acknowledge the importance of our eyes and make sure we are giving them the care they deserve. That’s where an optometrist comes in!  Read on to find out about the important role optometrists perform in ensuring your vision remains at its peak.

What is an optometrist?

If you are experiencing trouble with your vision or eye health, seeing an optometrist should be your first step.  An optometrist will help to diagnose and provide resources, for any vision problems that you may be experiencing.  An optometrist has the qualifications, resources and expert knowledge to examine your eyes and diagnose any vision impairment issues or diseases you may have.

An optometrist will give an eye test and examine your eyes to determine whether you would benefit from glasses or contact lenses, or analyse if your current eyewear prescription is still adequate.   Most commonly, patients are treated for a refractive error (e.g. farsightedness or nearsightedness).

Sometimes an optometrist will recommend forms of eye therapy or other types of eye care for those with a vision impairment or eye discomfort.  Optometrists can prescribe a limited range of medications to treat specific eye conditions.  If it is necessary, an optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist.  Optometrists are there for assistance before and after eye surgery, performed by an ophthalmologist.

Optometrist, ophthalmologist or optician?

These words sound similar and can be easily confused.  But, what is the difference between an optometrist, an ophthalmologist and an optician, and who should you see?

Optometrist

In most cases, you will require assistance from an optometrist first.  An optometrist is a primary health care provider and is the only profession (other than a GP) that has consultations covered by Medicare, without a referral.  Optometrists are highly qualified registered health professionals who have a 5-year optometry degree from a university.  They conduct eye exams, evaluate your vision, prescribe lenses and diagnose common eye disorders.

If you have a more complex eye issue or require eye surgery the optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist (also known as an eye doctor or eye surgeon) is a specialist medical doctor, who has postgraduate training in eye health and the vision system.  They have a minimum of 12 years of training.  While they can perform the same duties as an optometrist (such as the standard vision exam), they can also perform eye surgery.  Visiting an ophthalmologist requires a referral from your GP or optometrist.

Optician

If new lenses are needed, then you might visit an optician.  An optician specialises in finding the perfect glasses for you based on fit and prescription, and some will help you find the right type of contact lenses.  A dispensing optician will make and dispense eyewear.  They can often do repairs and adjustments to your glasses as well.  An optician is not a doctor and will not evaluate your eye health.

What to expect at the optometrists

Sometimes, we can overlook the importance of a check-up at the optometrist.  As a guideline, healthy adults without glasses should get a check-up at least every 2 years.  Children and the elderly need to be examined more often because eye changes can occur more rapidly in these groups.  If you have already been diagnosed with a vision impairment or use glasses or contacts, your optometrist will advise you how regularly to check back with them.  It is especially important for those recovering from eye surgery to check in with an optometrist as advised.  Always visit the optometrist straight away if you have any concerns about your eye health.  Don’t wait till your next scheduled check-up if you are experiencing any vision changes or discomfort.

A check-up with an optometrist will involve an eye examination, but don’t worry this is not a test you can fail.  Check out this short video on what to expect from an eye test.

If it is the first time you are seeing a new optometrist, be prepared to answer some questions about your vision history, general health, allergies, and medications, so your optometrist has all the information they need to assist you properly.  If you have prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses then take them with you.  Some optometrists also recommend also bringing along sunglasses to wear after the eye test, as the examination may cause pupil dilation for a short period of time.

Overall, your appointment should take somewhere between 20-30 minutes, which also includes a discussion before and after the standard eye exam, where the optometrist will discuss your results.

If you think it is time you had an eye test, book now to see one of our highly qualified optometrists at Sparks & Feros.