Previously known as ophthalmic opticians, optometrists are primary health care specialists trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormality and problems with general health.
A detailed examination of the eye can reveal conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Optometrists make a diagnosis, offer advice and when necessary prescribe, fit and supply contact lenses or glasses. Referrals for specialists advice may be required, patients may require a corrective lens or no further treatment.
Optometrists study at university for at least three years and participate in a full year of training and supervision, called the pre-registration year, before qualifying. Once qualified, they have the opportunity to develop their interests in specialist aspects of practice such as contact lenses, eye treatment, low vision, children’s vision and sports vision.
All optometrists practising in the UK must be registered with the General Optical Council, the profession’s regulatory body, and are listed in the Opticians Register. When choosing an optometrist, look out for the letters FCOptom or MCOptom after his or her name. It means that optometrist is a fellow or member of the College and adheres to high standards of clinical practice.
There are currently (June 2012) around 13,000 registered optometrists in the UK.
The College is a member of the Careers in Optics working group, which runs workshops for secondary school students about careers in optics. Please see the New Dimensions website for more information.