When you visit a Calgary optometry clinic, you may be handed off to an optician after your eye exam or meet with the optician before seeing the optometrist. What does an optician do? What kind of training do opticians have?
What Opticians Do
Opticians can design frames, verify that they fit your face and adjust frames. They can teach you how to put in contact lenses and how to properly sterilize them. They work based on the prescriptions provided by the ophthalmologist or optometrist.
An optician can clean your glasses prior to the exam, sterilize contact lenses, repair the frames and perform other non-medical tasks. Opticians can provide assistance with selecting and modifying low vision aids like magnifiers or ophthalmic prosthetic.
Many opticians make glasses to fit the prescription, grinding lenses to create one piece lenses, bifocals and trifocals to specification. They use various tools to check your current prescription lenses as well, determining if the problem someone reports is due to warping of the lenses or due to the fact that they’ve been cleaned so much the optics have been affected.
Depending on the office, opticians may do very basic eye exams, where someone reads letters off the chart. They routinely do this with patients while trying on frames and lenses to verify that the person can see properly with the new lenses.
Opticians may be paid a base salary, commissions on the number of frames or price of the glasses sold or a combination of the two.
What Opticians Cannot Do
Optometrists can do almost anything an ophthalmologist can, from writing lens prescriptions to prescriptions for eye ointment, but only an ophthalmologist could perform eye surgery beyond removing small irritants from the eye. An optician has no prescription writing authority at all, though they can order glasses made to your specifications and the doctor’s prescription. Opticians can dispense cleaning solutions or provide over the counter options per the doctor’s recommendation. Opticians are not allowed to diagnose a condition or treat a medical condition. They may be the person to give you lens cleaning solution, artificial tears and other products already available at the eye doctor’s office.
Your Optician’s Training
Opticians need a high school diploma followed by formal training in opticianry; this is available as a two year degree in many areas, but someone may be trained via apprenticeship as well. The apprenticeship route is a two to four year on the job program under the supervision of someone already licensed as an optician. Licensing and certification of opticians depends on your jurisdiction.
Modern Technology and Optometry
Modern technology has shaped optometry practice. New tools allow eye doctors to use automated tests to determine one’s field of vision and repair minor retinal blood vessel bleeding before it leads to blindness. Reducing pressure in the eye due to glaucoma is a short fifteen minute procedure, not a long involved procedure. Laser eye surgery treats not only nearsightedness and farsightedness but has evolved to treat some forms of astigmatism, as well. Cataracts are no longer a source of disability, routinely treated via lens replacement.
However, technology has impacted the lives of its users as well – including their eyes.
Eye Strain and Computer Vision Syndrome
Studies of South Korean students linked the amount of time they spent in front of books, televisions and computer screens to their odds of being nearsighted by the time they reached adulthood. Conversely, several hours a day in the sunlight appears to decrease the risk of developing nearsightedness. If you spend several hours a day outside, you should talk to your optometrist about methods to minimize the odds of developing cataracts over time, such as wearing sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV protection.
Many adults report eye strain and blurred vision after hours a day in front of a computer screen. This issue is reduced by taking periodic breaks away from the computer screen, and periodic short walks that take you away from both the computer screen and keyboard reduce your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome as well.
Another option is talking to an optician about getting eyeglasses with anti-glare coatings.
Gaming and 3D
Around a third of the population has reported problems with 3D entertainment and 3D video games. Their problems range from blurred vision, motion sickness, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, dizziness or failing to see the 3D images despite wearing 3D glasses. These issues, when not caused by staring at a screen too long, are a symptom of binocular vision disorder.
Binocular vision refers to how well the eyes work together to create a 3D image of the world in your brain. Conditions like strabismus can cause eye strain as the eyes try to stay in alignment until they cannot stay synced; at that point, binocular vision deteriorates and double vision can occur. Strabismus is most common in children but adults can have minor cases of it as well. Binocular vision disorder is more frequently caused by problems with eye focus and eye alignment. Barring lazy eye, this condition isn’t obvious by looking in the mirror and is best diagnosed by an exam by a Calgary optometry practice.
Contact lenses have evolved far beyond the thick lenses that replaced reading glasses. Contact lenses are available to correct for nearsightedness, farsightedness and, in some cases, astigmatism. Contact lenses are available for some people who would otherwise use bifocals.
This is separate from the colored contact lenses that can turn your brown eyes blue use of contact lenses treat lazy eye in place of eye patches. Talk to your optometrist about whether or not you can use contact lenses; they are increasingly a possibility today even if they weren’t an option for you ten years ago.
For people who found traditional contact lenses uncomfortable, the flexible gas permeable lenses are more comfortable, and the disposable lenses reduce the long term risk of infection that scared many away from using contact lenses.