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Eye Care Professionals

There are different types of professionals, providing a wide range of eye care services and support to blind and partially sighted people. It is important to see a specialist who is most qualified to take care of any concerns or problems that you may have regarding your eyes. Your general physician or emergency-room doctor can assist you with a referral to the appropriate professional.

The main types of eye-care professionals are:

  • Ophthalmologists
  • Optometrists
  • Opticians
  • Ocularists

1. Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a licensed medical or osteopathic physician who specializes in medical and surgical care of the eyes and the prevention of eye diseases. Ophthalmologists may also have subspecialty training in a specific area of ophthalmology, such as retina, cornea, glaucoma, refractive surgery, uveitis (inflammation of the eye), etc.

Ophthalmologists are trained to deliver total eye care, including performing eye examinations, prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses, diagnosing and treating eye diseases, and performing surgery on and around the eyes.Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research focused on eye disease and vision problem symptoms and cures.

2. Optometrist 

Optometrists are health care professionals trained to examine the eyes for visual defects, diagnose problems or impairments, prescribe corrective lenses, and provide certain types of treatment. They can also prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Depending on the country, they may be allowed to treat less complicated eye diseases and prescribe eyedrops for various conditions, but they are not trained or licensed to perform surgery.

Optometrists often work closely with ophthalmologists to provide integrated eye care for their mutual patients. Some optometrists work in the same practice as ophthalmologists, providing refractive (glasses and contact lenses) services, surgical screening, analysis of technical measurements prior to surgery, post-surgical care, emergency care, and other medical services. Optometrists refer patients for surgical or medical care, of serious illnesses, to ophthalmologists. Likewise, ophthalmologists may refer patients to optometrists for primary eye care, refractions, contact lenses, glasses, lens prescriptions, and glasses fittings.

3. Low Vision Specialist

Many optometrists and some ophthalmologists have additional credentials or specialization in low vision testing, diagnosis, and treatment. They are trained to conduct low vision eye examinations and prescribe special low vision optical devices. If you're experiencing significant vision loss, a low vision specialist can determine whether special optical and non-optical devices, improved lighting, or other types of specialized services and equipment can help make the best use of your remaining vision.

4. Optician 

An optician is a health professional who is trained to supply, prepare, and dispense optical appliances. They may also dispense contact lenses and artificial eyes. Opticians determine the best eyeglasses to suit your needs. In addition, they ensure that eyeglass frames are adequately adjusted, and if necessary, they can also repair broken frames. 

5. Ocularist

An ocularist is an eye-care provider who specializes in the fabrication and fitting of ocular prostheses for people who have lost an eye or eyes due to trauma or illness. The fabrication process for a custom-made eye typically includes taking an impression of the eye socket, shaping a plastic shell, painting the iris, and then fitting the ocular prostheses. These prosthetic devices are remarkably similar to the patient's own eye, usually matched to the remaining normal eye's colours and dimensions. With modern technology, the prosthetic eye can be created in three dimensions from acrylic plastic. In addition to creating the prosthetic eye, ocularists show the patient how to care for and handle the prosthesis.

6. Ophthalmic Technicians

Ophthalmic technicians are ophthalmic medical personnel (OMP) trained to perform assigned procedures under the direction or supervision of an ophthalmologist.

Some of the tasks performed by OMP include recording patient histories, maintaining instruments, administering tests and evaluations, taking eye measurements, providing patient services, and performing a variety of clinical tasks including surgical assisting. Their function is to assist the ophthalmologist by collecting data and administering treatment ordered by the ophthalmologist.

Access to Health Care in low income countries

People in low income countries have less access to health care services. The World Blind Union (WBU) is concerned that eye care professionals and visual aids are unaffordable or unavailable in those countries. 

The WBU represents the voice of the estimated 253 million people who are blind or partially sighted, majority of whom are living in low income countries. As such, the WBU continues to challenge governments and international stakeholders to provide accessible and affordable health care services to reduce avoidable blindness.  ​​