Understand difference between opticians and optometrists

In the report on April 25 ("Japanese brands doing well despite local retail slump"), a spokesman for a spectacles chain was quoted as saying: "The optical shops here are generally traditional, and have not changed over the years. They were doing well, so there was no need to change."

He added that many local optical shops do not offer a simple price structure and quick service.

His views, however, do not represent the whole optical industry in Singapore.

To attract more customers, there are optical stores which choose to reduce the prices of spectacles and/or provide quick service, so that consumers can receive their spectacles in less than an hour ("New vision for optical shops to stay competitive"; Tuesday).

The Singapore Optometric Association (SOA) welcomes different business models to run optical stores.

However, SOA wishes to emphasise the importance of an eye examination.

According to the Optometrists and Opticians Act, there are differences in the roles of an optician and optometrist.

An optician's main task is to refract the eyes, or in layman's terms, check the "power" of the eyes required for vision correction (not for children under the age of seven), and prescribe and dispense a pair of spectacles.

Optometrists not only perform the task of an optician in doing refraction, but have an expanded role in providing primary eyecare to the public of all ages ("Suitable optical shops could shift focus to primary eyecare" by Mr Ng Chee Kheon; yesterday).

Eyecare should not be restricted to refraction or the testing of optical prescription. It also involves detection of common eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.

Upon detection of any ocular diseases, the patient is referred to an eye doctor for treatment. Early detection and treatment of eye diseases can prevent serious eye complications that may lead to blindness, and improves the quality of life.

SOA urges the public to understand their own needs, be aware of the importance of regular eye health examinations, understand the roles and scope of practice of opticians and optometrists, and choose their practitioner wisely.

They should understand the industry well so that they can make an informed choice.

Koh Liang Hwee (Dr)


Singapore Optometric Association

This article was first published on May 6, 2016.
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