Most of us wouldn’t put anything as serious as our health into the hands of non-professionals – that’s just common knowledge. While you may be able to cut corners in other aspects of life (like hiring the neighbourhood kid to mow your lawn) there is no substitute for medical care. That wasn’t the message sent to British Columbian citizens in April 2004; the B.C. government announced it had drafted legislation to allow opticians to provide Vision tests and fill optical prescriptions with no medical supervision. This is the first time a government has permitted this in the history of North America.
What is the difference between an optician and an optometrist? You might be saying “Oh well what difference does it make – each of these people will look at my eyes tell me how well I can see then give me some glasses.” While this may be true on some level there are some key differences between the two professions.
- complete a six month to one year education/training program with a national licensing exam that allows them to dispense eyeglasses; extra time is required for contact lens distribution
- are non-medical practitioners who dispense eyewear and eye appliances
- are licensed doctors of optometry who have earned a four-year B.Sc. or higher and have completed another four years of professional study at a school for optometry
- examine diagnose and treat any complication involved with vision or the eye and are experts on preventing vision damage or loss
What is the difference between a Vision test and an vision examination? It is imperative to understand that these are completely separate tests. Having a Vision test done when you get glasses does not take the place of your annual vision exam. There are countless diseases and eye conditions that an optician is not qualified to diagnose and the Vision-testing equipment is not designed to detect. This is especially dangerous because many serious eye diseases are often asymptomatic until there is significant eye or vision damage present. For example age-related macular degeneration (AMD) the leading cause of blindness in Canadians over 50 often has no symptoms until the condition has progressed. An optometrist provides a full vision examination that evaluates more than just how well a person sees. A thorough vision exam also detects health problems such as cataracts glaucoma or detached retinas. Optometrists have also identified cancer diabetes and high blood pressure during routine vision exams.
A Vision Test:
- A vision test determines a lens prescription by relying on a combination of computerized tests using automated equipment.
- The comprehensiveness and accuracy of these automated vision tests is limited
An Vision Examination:
- provides a detailed evaluation of your vision eye muscle co-ordination and eye health
- looks at your family and personal history any medications you might be taking and your lifestyle; from there your doctor is able to make thorough and accurate recommendations about your eyes and what treatments works best for you
- prevent vision loss through early detection and treatment of eye diseases
A vision test is not an actual vision examination. It does not replace your annual assessment which is vital to maintain proper eye health and functioning. Do not put your vision and overall health at risk – make sure you see your eye care practitioner at least once a year.