Previously known as opticians, optometrists are trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormality and problems with general health, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. They make a health assessment, offer clinical advice, prescribe spectacles or contact lenses and refer patients for further treatment, when necessary.
Optometrists study at university for at least three years and must participate in a period of assessed clinical training in practice, before being deemed to have the knowledge and skills needed to be registered. Once registered, they have the opportunity to take further qualifications and develop their interests in specialist areas of practice.
All optometrists practising in the UK must be registered with the General Optical Council, the profession’s regulatory body. When choosing an optometrist, look for the letters FCOptom or MCOptom after their name. It means that the optometrist is a fellow or member of the College and adheres to high standards of clinical practice.
If you’d like to work in eye health care, but are not sure that optometry is for you, there are other roles you may be interested in:
Dispensing opticians advise on, fit and supply spectacle frames and lenses after taking account of each patient's lifestyle and vocational needs. Dispensing opticians are also able to fit contact lenses after undergoing further specialist training. Visit the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) website to find out more.
Ophthalmic medical practitioner (OMP)
OMPs are registered medical practitioners who have undertaken postgraduate training in ophthalmology. Like optometrists, they examine eyes, test sight, diagnose abnormalities and prescribe suitable corrective lenses. Visit the Royal College of Ophthalmologists website to find out more.
Ophthalmologists are surgical and medical specialists able to perform operations on eyes. Medically qualified, they mainly work in eye hospitals and hospital eye departments.Visit the Royal College of Ophthalmologists website to find out more.
Orthoptists generally work with ophthalmologists in hospitals and in the community. They are concerned with eye problems relating to eye movements and the inability of the eyes to work together. Examples of these problems are squint (strabismus), lazy eye (amblyopia) and double vision (diplopia). Visit the British and Irish Orthoptic Society website to find out more.
For more information on eye professionals and who does what, visit LookAfterYourEyes.org