When you think of vision care, you think of the eye exam you get once every year or two; a visit to your optometrist, a read of the charts, “number two or number three”. But there’s more to caring for your vision than meets the eye. Though the optics of the profession are focused on optometry, there’s a whole team of different professionals who can take care of your eye health, and it’s important to know the difference between the three.

Optometrists are your first line of ocular defense; they’re the primary providers of eye care. They are extremely well-trained professionals; first, they have to obtain a Bachelor of Science, then a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree. There’s a wide variety of care your optometrist can provide. They can complete eye exams, which can diagnose a variety of conditions including near and farsightedness, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts. They can prescribe glasses or other eyewear that can correct vision problems. They’re also adept at helping you manage diseases like diabetes, which can affect your overall ocular health. Optometrists can remove foreign bodies from your eyes, and can refer you to specialists for surgeries and diseases they can’t handle alone. It’s important to know that in Manitoba, optometrists can have two types of drug license: Diagnostic and Therapeutic. Those with a Diagnostic license can administer diagnostic drugs, but cannot prescribe them; those with a Therapeutic license can prescribe and administer a certain class of eye drug; neither class can prescribe narcotics.

The second group of medical professionals we’ll turn our gaze to is opthamologists. These doctors have completed a medical degree and specialized in eye care during their residency. They can diagnose eye diseases and prescribe treatments; moreover, they have intensive training in eye surgery. They are physicians, and have broad medical training in addition to their specialty.

Opticians are a key part of the vision care team; they’ll help you choose the perfect pair of glasses, then fabricate the lenses based on their interpretation of your prescription; they can also dispense contact lenses. Having your glasses fabricated by an optician is the key to seeing clearly; poorly fitted glasses can result in headaches, blurred vision and other nasty symptoms that negate the purpose of having vision aids in the first place.

Taking care of your vision is an important part of your overall health. Optometrists can check your eyes for signs of underlying disease; sometimes, diseases that aren’t relegated to the eye alone can show symptoms in the eye. Opthamologists will help you in the case of disease, which can save your vision. Opticians forge the vision care devices you need to see the world. It’s fall, and looking outside at all of the beautiful colours and shapes, it pains me to think of what can happen if you don’t consult with your vision care team regularly. If you don’t have a Winnipeg optometrist, get in touch with us.