Do you know your Ophthalmologist from your Optometrist? There are a couple of professions in this field people get mixed up with, quite natural when dealing with names for medical specialists derived from latin. Ophthalmic (Latin) or Ophthalmos (Greek) means of or for the eyes. Ology from ‘to study’ or ‘to speak of’.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialised in the field of Ophthalmology after their medical degree and prescribe both medicines and perform optical surgery.
Optometrists on the other hand are trained to examine the eyes and detect all manner of injury, lense issues and other health problems.
Optometrists used to be called opticians, and they still specialised in eye examination, defect identification, injury assessment, ocular diseases and secondary effects of health problems on the sensitive eye apparatus. Optometrists complete health assessments, give their patients clinical advice, can prescribe a range of glasses, lenses and other specialists glasses. If the optometrist detects a significant defect or one that is beyond their ability to both assess and treat, the patient may be referred to an Ophthalmologist. Optometrists are clinicians who have gained access to a university degree in Optometry by reaching the requirements of a minimum AAB at A-Level and a level 3 qualification equivalent to enter the course.
There are several differentiations of this role such as dispensing opticians who advise on the best lenses, frame and fit for the patient and take into account their lifestyle and other health factors. If you have spent time in an optician, you’ve likely been given a prescription from a professional who’s studied and qualified in this field. In the first year in practice, you may expect to start on an NHS band 4 as a trainee in a hospital, and this can raise up to a qualified and registered optometrist into band 6. When further clinical experience, professional development and qualification are undertaken more senior posts become in reach such as specialist optometrists and principle optometrists, all the way up to band 8.
The field will continue to develop as more technology trickles down, including the use of AI through brain interfaces (such as Neuralink) which is promising the restoration of sight to blind individuals and other innovations like the reversal of paralysis. This role is attractive to individuals who really want to make a difference to their patients lives, by restoring one of the main senses to its optimal level. Those who see take for granted the freedom it gives us – to watch a television show, to see a mountain, to see a loved one smile. As an Optometrist, you will be facilitating the recreation of beautiful memories by restoring vision, improving quality of life and taking care of all aspects of patient health which might affect their eyes. Rest assured, almost 1 in 2 people wear or will have to wear glasses, and this will likely only increase as we merge ever more with technology which does damage to our eyesight. Optometry is not a field that will be defunct any time soon, and it might be the career you’ve wanted to really start making a difference in people’s lives.