Your Optical Professionals – Who’s Who

Definitions of Eye Care Professionals



Optometrists conduct eye and vision examinations, prescribe spectacles and contact lenses and carry out treatment for eye disorders. Optometrists do not perform surgery but may use drugs to treat eye diseases if they are therapeutically qualified. Optometrists must complete a three to five-year university qualification specifically on the eye and its care before they can be registered to practice. Optometrists may also dispense eyewear, such as glasses and contact lenses, from their own practice. An increasing proportion of the work optometrists do relates to eye disease and problems which affect the way in which the eyes work together (binocular vision). Optometrists provide approximately three-quarters of all eye examinations given by eye care professionals in Australia


Ophthalmologists are medical practitioners who concentrate on treating eye disease with drugs and surgery. Although their specialist training is centered in these areas they also prescribe spectacles. There is a considerable degree of overlap in the services optometrists and ophthalmologists provide. Both perform refraction and prescribe spectacles and contact lenses, both are qualified in the detection of eye disease and there is a growing overlap in the treatment of minor ocular disorders. Only ophthalmologists perform major eye surgery and treat serious eye disease.


Optical dispensers interpret optical prescriptions and fit and service optical appliances such as spectacle frames and lenses. They advise on, fit and supply the most appropriate spectacles after taking account of each patient’s visual, lifestyle and vocational needs. Qualified dispensers have completed a Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing from TAFE or a Registered Training Organisation. An optical dispenser works as part of the eye care team in the optical practice alongside the eyecare practitioners who issue the optical prescription. Behind the scenes optical dispensers are often employed in optical laboratories of large practices and by the lens companies who grind and manufacture lenses.


Orthoptists are university qualified eye health professionals who care for patients with eye disorders. Orthoptists specialise in a variety of areas including (but not limited to): Children’s vision, Eye movement disorder, Low vision care / Rehabilitation, Cataract care, Retinal disorders, Neurological vision disorders, Clinical Research and education. Orthoptists work in a range of settings, including hospitals, private practices, low vision and rehabilitation settings, community health areas, clinical research centres, universities and within the ophthalmic sales industry. Orthoptists may work independently, in conjunction with ophthalmologists or in a variety of multidisciplinary teams.

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