An optometrist is a primary health care provider, often being the first point of professional contact for people experiencing problems with their eyes or who have difficulty seeing. Optometrists have a unique role in providing accessible and vital eye care to the community. Apart from general practice, optometry is the only profession to have its consultations covered by Medicare without the need for a referral.
Optometrists are experts in: the optics of lenses, eye health and visual performance. They assess, diagnose and manage ocular diseases, injuries and disorders across a wide range of patients. Where clinically necessary, optometrists prescribe spectacles, contact lenses and devices for the visually impaired.
Practicing optometrists are registered health professionals who have undertaken a university degree in optometry and who are registered by the Optometry Board of Australia. "The majority of optometrists have completed additional training to treat conditions of the eye requiring medicated eye drops. Complicated or unresponsive cases would be referred on to an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist would also be consulted at time of diagnosis of glaucoma, if pressure control with eye drops is not effective or if a surgical approach is to be considered."
An ophthalmologist is a medical specialist who has undertaken postgraduate medical training to specialise in eye health and vision. They “provide diagnostic, treatment and preventative medical services related to diseases, injuries and deficiencies of the human eye and associated structures” (ABS Australian Standard Classification of Occupations 2nd edition).
Ophthalmologists are trained and registered to provide total care of eyes, from performing comprehensive eye examinations to prescribing corrective lenses, diagnosing diseases and disorders of the eye, and carrying out the medical and surgical procedures necessary for their treatment. Their work includes prevention of blindness, promotion of eye health, and the rehabilitation of people with visual disability.
Ophthalmologists practice both medicine and surgery, providing both primary care as well as highly specialised treatment. They are the only providers of laser and surgical correction of eye disorders.
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