Who are Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians?
Afua Owusua Oteng-Amoako (Final year, Doctor of Optometry- KNUST)
Vision is one of the most important senses of the human body. Without it, there may be a total loss of independence. It has been proven that most individuals upon becoming blind have lowered lifeexpectancies. Furthermore, the eyes are one of the most delicate parts of the human body. Due to itscomplex nature; unlike other parts of the body, transplant surgery of the eye is presently impossible. Youreyes must therefore be well catered for by qualified eye professionals.
Optometry according to Dorland‟s illustrated medical dictionary is “
the professional practice of primaryeye and vision care for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of associated disorders and for theimprovement of vision by the prescription of spectacles and by use of other functional, optical andpharmaceutical means regulated by the laws of a particular country
. Doctors of Optometry are definedby the American Optometric Association as
independent primary health care providers who examine,diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structuresas well as diagnose related systemic conditions
.An optician is a specialist trained in the manufacture of spectacles. They sell spectacles and other opticalinstruments. They receive prescriptions from patients who have been seen by optometrists and make theirspectacles. They help patients in the selection of frames and fit and adapt eyewear to the wearer. Theword optician is synonymous to ophthalmic dispenser.An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye.He is a physician (M.D) practicing in ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that dealswith the anatomy, functions, pathology, and treatment of the eye. Ophthalmologists perform surgery onthe eye.The Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) is currently a 6-year program similar to that found in the USA. It isundertaken in two universities in Ghana; The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology(KNUST) in Kumasi and The University of Cape Coast. At KNUST, the program commenced in the2004/2005 academic year of the tertiary institutions academic calendar. Previously, it had been a four-year BSc. Optometry and Visual Science degree which was also in turn preceded by a 2-year post-graduate program of Optometry and Visual Science. In the first two years of the present O.D., generalcourses in mostly the basic sciences are taken. This is followed by four years of required optometryelective courses. One semester of the final year is spent on a clinical externship under the supervision of aqualified optometrist, ophthalmologist and optician. Upon graduation with the Doctor of Optometrydegree, one is required to undertake an internship for a year, after which he/she takes a professional pre-registration exam to be officially recognized as a member of the Ghana Optometric Association (GOA).There are currently about 100 Doctors of Optometry in the country.Currently, opticians in Ghana are being trained at the Optical Technician Training Institute (OTTI) atOyoko in the Ashanti Region. It is a 3 year-diploma program which replaced the former 2-year certificateprogram. In the new 3-year diploma program, one semester each of duration of about 4 months, is spentout on attachment every academic year. Presently, arrangements are being made for an affiliation to bebuilt with the KNUST Department of Optometry. OTTI was established by a registered Germanphilanthropic organization known as the International Union of Westphalian Children's Villages (IUWV)in 2000. There are currently about 100 opticians in the country.