A professional who is trained to fabricate and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to the eye doctor’s prescription. Requirements vary from state to state. To become an optician in Massachusetts, a license is required. A person must be a high school graduate and complete an apprenticeship program (6,000 hours) in a minimum of three years, or complete a two-year accredited Opticianry program. There is a third option which involves completing one year of opticianry education and 3,000 hours (18 months) of apprenticeship. Candidates for licensure also must pass two national exams, namely, the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) Exam as well as the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) exam. A practical examination exhibiting these skills is also required. One then earns the title RDO (Registered Dispensing Optician).
A physician (M.D.) who specializes in diagnosing and prescribing treatment for defects, injuries, and eye diseases, and can perform eye surgeries. Cataract surgery is one common example. There are subspecialties of this profession, such as Glaucoma, Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery and Pediatric Ophthalmology. Education required to become an ophthalmologist includes an undergraduate degree followed by four years of medical school. After completing medical school, an ophthalmologist then completes extensive post-graduate residency clinical training.
A medical professional (Doctor of Optometry, or O.D.) who examines and tests the eyes for disease and treats visual disorders by prescribing corrective lenses and/or vision therapy. In many states, optometrists are licensed to use diagnostic and therapeutic drugs to treat certain diseases of the eye. To become an optometrist, a four year program at an accredited school of optometry is required, after completing at least three years of study at an accredited college or university. All states require optometrists to be licensed. In addition to the completion of the Doctor of Optometry degree, one must pass both the written National Board examination and a national, regional or State clinical examination. Applicants in many states must also pass an examination on relevant state laws.
Ophthalmic Medical Technician
An allied health professional who assists ophthalmologists by collecting data and administering treatment ordered by the ophthalmologist. These specialists are qualified to take medical histories, administer diagnostic tests, and administer topical ophthalmic medications, among other responsibilities.
A cataract is a cloudiness in the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This cloudiness causes a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness if left untreated. Both ophthalmologists and optometrists may detect and monitor cataract growth and prescribe prescription lenses. However, only an ophthalmologist can perform cataract surgery.
A common eye condition in which the fluid within the eye does not drain properly and leads to an increased pressure within the eye. If left untreated, glaucoma may damage the optic nerve and other delicate structures, which can lead to a loss of vision and even blindness. Glaucoma can often be controlled through the use of medication, in the form of eye drops.
Macular degeneration is the progressive deterioration of a critical region of the retina called the macula. The macula is a 3-5 mm area in the retina that is responsible for central vision. This disorder leads to irreversible loss of central vision, although peripheral vision remains. In the early stages, vision may be gray, hazy or distorted.
Opticians dispense antireflective (AR) lenses because the decreased reflection improves the wearer’s vision and is cosmetically more appealing. The improvement in vision with AR lenses is particularly noticeable when driving at night or working in front of a computer. The decreased reflection means that wearers often find their eyes are less tired, particularly at the end of the day. Allowing more light to pass through the lens also increases the contrast and therefore increases visual acuity. Many AR lenses include an additional coating that repels grease and water, making them easier to keep clean.
Antireflective ophthalmic lenses should not be confused with polarized lenses, which decrease (by absorption) the visible glare of sun reflected off of surfaces such as sand, water, and roads. Polarized lenses are most commonly worn as sunglasses in either gray or brown color. The term "antireflective" relates to the reflection from the surface of the lens itself, not the origin of the light that reaches the lens. Many optical shops have a polarized lens demonstrator, so you can see how they work.
Photochromic lenses darken when exposed to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Once the UV is removed (for example by walking indoors), the lenses will gradually return to their clear state. Photochromic lenses may be made of plastic (regular index or high index), polycarbonate, or glass. Photochromic lenses can lead to increased visual comfort in various lighting conditions.
High Index Lenses
High index plastic lens materials bend light more efficiently. What this means to the wearer is thinner, lighter eyeglasses that are cosmetically more appealing and more comfortable to wear. Significantly nearsighted individuals—those with thick lens edges in traditional plastic--really appreciate this option. Some high index lenses, particularly those that magnify objects for farsighted people, have what is known as an aspheric design as well. This aids in maximizing the quality of the vision as well as the thinness of the lens, and makes the wearer’s eye look more naturally sized to the observer, as well.
Often referred to as no-line bifocals, progressive lenses provide the wearer vision at all focal distances. These lenses are very popular today, and come in various designs that can be tailored to the wearer’s visual needs. Optimal vision is obtained by the precise measurements taken by the optician after the prescription is determined by the eye doctor. Progressive lens technology has made significant advances over the years, and often those who tried them out many years ago and did not like them are having an easier time adapting to many of today’s digitally manufactured designs.