Roles of eye health professionals
You may come across four types of eye health professionals:
Optometrists can prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and a limited range of medications. They can diagnose and monitor eye disease and also provide referrals directly to ophthalmologists if surgery or complex therapeutic treatment is needed. Eye examinations undertaken by optometrists are covered by Medicare and are usually bulk billed. You don’t need a referral to see an optometrist.
Also known as eye specialists, eye surgeons or eye doctors, ophthalmologists can diagnose and treat eye conditions, perform eye surgery, and prescribe medications and glasses. To visit an ophthalmologist you need a referral from your general practitioner or optometrist. There is usually a gap in Medicare coverage in the private healthcare system but not in the public system.
Orthoptists can prescribe glasses and contact lenses. They work with ophthalmologists in hospitals and private practice, in research and within low vision agencies. Orthoptists working in low vision can provide:
- clinical and functional vision assessment
- recommendation and prescription for low vision devices
- assessment of lighting requirements at home and work
- education to clients, family, community and staff
- vision reports for tertiary students or people seeking employment
- recommendations of appropriate print size for reading
- eccentric viewing programs to effectively train people to use peripheral vision to maximise vision for all daily living tasks
- null point training to minimise the movement of the eyes with nystagmus
Dispensing opticians make and dispense glasses, and contact lenses from the prescriptions written by ophthalmologists, optometrists and orthoptists. Some manufacture spectacles on site as well as do repairs and adjustments. Some dispensing opticians are employed by large corporations but many are self-employed in private practice or in partnerships with optometrists.
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