Optometrists and Opticians

Do you know the differences between an optometrist and an optician ?

Optometrists are primary eye care providers who specialize in performing eye examinations. Through the tests, they can detect eye-infections and common eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, all of which may be treatable if detected early.

In general, optometrists are qualified to:

  1. Perform refraction1 on patients who are adults, children or adolescents.
  2. Prescribe optical appliances such as glasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
  3. Perform visual examination on patients and refer them to other healthcare practitioners such as ophthalmologist for further management if any eye abnormalities/diseases are detected.
  4. Perform any other type of practice of eye care which is part of the practice of opticianry (eg. dispensing and fitting of glasses and contact lenses).

Who are Opticians ?

There are 3 different categories of opticians in Singapore. All of them are equipped with the skills to dispense and fit glasses based on prescriptions from optometrists or ophthalmologists2.

The opticians are registered in the following categories:

1. Opticians (Dispensing Only) – this category of opticians are only qualified to dispense and fit glasses.
2. Opticians (Refraction and Dispensing) – this category of opticians are qualified to:
a. Perform refraction1 on patients who are 8 years of age or older.
b. Dispense and fit glasses to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
3. Opticians (Contact Lens Practice) – this category of opticians are qualified to:
a. Perform refraction1 on patients who are 8 years of age or older.
b. Dispense and fit glasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
c. Provide aftercare to patients, including monitoring to detect, prevent and manage problems or complications arising from the use of contact lenses.

When you walk into an optical shop, do you know who is the optometrist or the optician? Only optometrist are allowed to perform refraction on children younger than 8 years old. So don’t be surprised when you walk into an optical shop to get your child’s eye tested, you get turned away. Now (finally) the Optometrist and optician board (OOB) has made it easier for the public to identify the optometrist from the optician.

The OOB has modified the practicing certificates (PC) for all registered optometrists. PCs for optometrists are now printed in pink, while PCs for opticians remain as green.

The main objective for this differentiation is to enable the public to identify optometrists vis-à-vis opticians more clearly. This will help consumers to be more aware of the different roles played by the two different groups of professionals.

OOB Decals

In conjunction with the differentiation of the PCs, the Board would also be issuing decals to all shops and outlets with registered optometrists and/or opticians. The decals will help to increase public awareness of the two different groups of practitioners as well as the additional services that optometrists may provide beyond refraction and selling of spectacles, such as contact lens services and eye screening.

Next time when you go into an optical shop, if you see someone wearing a pink badge, you can immediately tell he /she is an optometrist. If you are interested, you can also find out the detailed qualifications of the optometrist / optician serving you at the OOB website.

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