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What is the difference between an optical dispenser and an optometrist?

Posted by econtactlenses 15/03/2021 0 Comment(s)
Optometrists and optical dispensers have different functions in eye health care. Let’s take a closer look to find out who does what to monitor the health of your eyes.

Optical dispenser qualifications

To be qualified in Australia, optical dispensers must hold a Certificate IV qualification in Optical Dispensing (1 year).

Optometrist qualifications

Optometrists must have a university qualification in either Bachelor of Optometry, Bachelor of Vision Science and Master of Optometry, or Doctor of Optometry. This can take between 3.5 and 7 years depending on which path is taken. To practise, optometrists must be registered with the Optometry Board of Australia.

What can optical dispensers and optometrists do?

Who can perform an eye test?

Optometrists. When performing eye examinations, optometrists evaluate vision to identify disorders which may include coordination and focusing problems. They screen for common diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts. And can even be an early detection point for other symptoms connected to eye health, e.g.: diabetes, then refer patients to other doctors or practitioners for further assessment and treatment.

Who can write eye prescriptions?

Optometrists write prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses. They may also prescribe other vision aids. Optical dispensers cannot write prescriptions.
In addition to prescription lenses, if you want to try non-prescription coloured contact lenses, an optometrist can write a prescription for the correctly fitted contact lens to change your eye colour. Even though there is no vision correction, they can check there is nothing preventing you from using coloured contacts for fun, such as an underlying eye condition, and can recommend a reputable brand. Then you can have confidence you will have a good experience wearing coloured or costume lenses because they’ll be right for you.

Who fits glasses (frames and lenses)?

Optical dispensers size, give advice and help select the right glasses. They are qualified to interpret prescriptions of optometrists and ophthalmologists, dispense, and fit glasses for patients. They perform all the responsibilities related to fitting glasses, such as accurate measurement, for example, of the distance between pupils, to ensure the best fit for multifocal or bifocal glasses, and fit frames to your face. 
Optical dispensers are knowledgeable and give advice on glasses and lenses that will best suit the lifestyle of the patient. Especially for safety eyewear/PPE, sports eyewear, prescription sunglasses, scratch protection, and blue-light reduction.

Who chooses the size of your contact lenses?

Optometrists. Contact lens prescriptions in Australia are required to state the brand name, powers, base curves, etc., which is all completed by optometrists. Optical dispensers do not write prescriptions. Non-prescription lenses including coloured contact lenses or costume contact lenses do not require a script. But as we mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to visit an optometrist to make sure your eyes are in good health. You’ll get the right-sized lenses, and your costume will be just right!

Who diagnoses eye conditions?

Optometrists. During an eye examination, an optometrist is on the lookout for the signs of disorders and diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. An optometrist is often the first port of call for a patient experiencing changes in their vision. 

BONUS: What does an ophthalmologist do?

An ophthalmologist is a doctor who diagnoses and manages disorders of the eye. They perform eye surgery but can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Optometrists may refer a patient to an ophthalmologist if they identify an eye disease or injury that requires further treatment.

At eContactlenses we're all qualified Optical Dispensers

All orders and prescriptions received by eContact Lenses are checked and packed by optical dispensers, just as if you were picking them up in a store. If you're unable to find your contact lenses in stock, you can contact us and we can advise you on an alternative that will suit your needs. Above all you can have confidence in ordering your contact lenses online, knowing that our trained optical dispensers have your order under control.

Points to remember

While optometrists and optical dispensers have different roles, they often work together to support good eye health: 
  • Optometrists: testing, diagnosing, and prescribing vision correction
  • Optical dispensers: giving advice, fitting glasses and lenses to meet the needs of patients.