Who Do I See: An Optician, Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?


Posted On October 7, 2020

Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, and Opticians are all eyecare professionals.

 Sometimes you may not know who to actually see. Even in some situations, especially in developing countries where things could be haphazard, you may need to insist on who you want to see.

It, therefore, becomes important to know the different categories of eyecare specialists – the optometrist, the ophthalmologist, and the optician. Knowing their scope of training and areas of specialty will help you make a better judgment on who to see for your different eye care needs.

Opticians, Optometrist, and ophthalmologists must work collaboratively for a comprehensive and effective eye care health system.

Don’t mind that in a disorganized setting like you could see any of these eye care professionals working outside their scope. In some cases, you would see an ophthalmologist busy refracting and dispensing glasses. You could see an optometrist managing case that should be referred to an ophthalmologist. Or you see an optician going beyond his or her technical expertise to refract and recommend optical prescriptions.

Having a basic knowledge of who your eye care specialist are will guide you to know what to expect of each professional category.


Who is an Optician?

An eye care professional who designs fits and dispenses eyeglass lenses, frames, contact lenses, or other devices to correct or enhance vision based on the optometrist’s eye exam and prescription. They will also post optical care services to make sure your glasses fit optimally.

Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Registration Board ( ODRBN ) of Nigeria defines A DISPENSING OPTICIAN as a technical practitioner who designs, fits, and dispenses corrective lenses for the correction of a person’s vision following prescriptions from the optometrists. Opticians will fit and dispense corrective lenses. Just like the pharmacist is in the best position to dispense your medical prescriptions.


Who is an Optometrist? 

Optometrists, according to the World Council of Optometry, are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis, and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.

OPTOMETRISTS are licensed to diagnose and treat diseases of the eye through topical, diagnostic, and therapeutic drugs, according to ODORBN. There are 4,467 Registered optometrists in Nigeria.

Optometrists are not medical doctors. They are doctors of optometry, not doctors of medicine. Maybe, we as optometrists need to brand ourselves appropriately. Sometime in the past, and I know many Optometrists experience this, a relative came to me for medical help. As far as he was concerned, doctors are all medical doctors. Some of these relatives may even be disappointed if you refer to the hospital. Recently, a personal friend tried to help me and offered to get me into the Federal Medical Centre as a consultant! Apparently, he took me for a medical doctor!  

Defining the scope of optometry and classification of the different categories of eye care practitioners remains controversial even in America.

Just remember that the Optometrist, though not most important, should be your first port of call for your eyecare needs. Just like you will need a physician for general medical needs. He or she gives you a comprehensive eye exam even when there is no obvious complaint. Some eye conditions like glaucoma – ‘the thief of sight’ can be caught early during a routine check. Even diabetes could be detected during such eye exams.

Training of optometrists in Nigeria: The training path is different from country to country. For instance, In Nigeria, an optometrist must have gone through a 6-year program to qualify as a doctor of optometry, After which, a 1-year internship training is mandatory before getting the license to practice.


Who is an Ophthalmologist 

Ophthalmologists are specialized medical doctors that diagnose, manage, and treat eye conditions, especially those involving systemic and surgical management. Further subspecialties include cataract surgery and retina. An Ophthalmologist will be referred to for major cases of surgical needs and treatments. Just like you could be referred to a specialist surgeon if need be.

In Conclusion 

Don’t mind that these areas of expertise could usually be muddled up especially in our dear country. Most important to note that for a good visual system, the Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, and Optician play vital roles. All hands must be on deck. According to WHO, at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, of which over 1 billion cases could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed.


See your Optometrist today!


Written by Dr. Okwukwe Davis

Okwukwe Davis is a Nigerian Optometrist with a flair for web design aligned with brand strategy. He loves to help Optometrists and Rising Professionals discover growth through his design & strategy studio - StarRose. In his spare time, he writes engaging content to help online platforms build meaningful relationships.

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