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From the moment you open them in the morning, until you shut them to sleep at night, you use your eyes for pretty much everything. Therefore taking good care of your eyes is an essential part of daily life, and opticians are a big part of that care.

What does an optician do?

Here in the UK the word ‘optician’ is used to describe two different classes of professionals, namely, dispensing opticians and optometrists. Optometrists are healthcare professionals whose job is to assess your eyesight and prescribe corrective lenses accordingly, whereas a dispensing optician’s role is simply to prepare and provide these lenses. Most practitioners in the UK who work under the label of ‘optician’ are more accurately called optometrists, and for the purpose of this article, an optician is an optometrist rather than simply a dispensing optician.

Some opticians are qualified to provide visual aid equipment to people with partial vision or impaired site, and these are called ophthalmic prosthetics. Opticians must be qualified and certified to practice in the UK, and are answerable to the General Optical Council which is their profession regulatory body.

The first role of an optician is to determine if there is an impairment in your vision, and if so, the nature of that impairment. This allows them to go on and prescribe the appropriate corrective lenses. A wide range of equipment can be used at this stage, the most well known of which is probably the standard eye chart test. In this letters are placed at a specific distance from your eyes, and you are asked to read them out. These letters diminish in size as the test goes on, allowing the optician a measure of how well you can see objects at a distance. Beyond this simple test, an optician uses a range of equipment specifically designed to take a range of measurements of both your eye and your range of vision.

What kind of eye problems do opticians deal with?

The most common eye problems that an optician will deal with are near and far sightedness. Your eye is made up of a number of different components that work together to form a clear image your brain interprets as sight. Key parts of the eye, like the lens and eyeball for example, can vary in shape from person to person, and in these cases there might be a resulting reduction in vision. Near sightedness, a condition in which you have difficulty seeing objects further away, is also called myopia, while hyperopia, the opposite condition in which you have trouble with objects closer to you, is farsightedness. The two are easily adjusted by means of corrective lenses that can be obtained from any optician after an eye test. An optician will also have to be able to provide aids for people with partial vision, and sometimes prosthetics like glass eyes for people who have, for whatever reason, a cosmetic defect in their eye.

What do I get from seeing an optician?

After seeing an optician you will have an idea of how your vision is doing and whether you need any lenses to help correct your vision. They will often have a range of frames and can advise you on the suitability of some frames for your lifestyle and comfort. There are a number of options when it comes to choosing lenses, and an optician will discuss which ones would suit you best. These can include anti-reflective coatings to prevent glare on your glasses for example.

Dispensing Opticians

A dispensing optician’s role is limited to prepare and fit lenses prescribed by an optometrist. A dispensing optician is able to give you advice on your choices of lens, including for example contact lenses, bifocals (lenses with two areas, one for near sight, one for far sight) etc. Like optometrists, dispensing opticians are governed by the General Optical Council who provide their qualifications and registration.

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