Human being are truly a complex being. Complexity, in the sense that our needs are endless. Endless as it may seem, our priorities must never be misplaced, or misinterpreted. Key among the priorities of any functional community, with a proactive leadership, is the health of the populace.
Health, according to the World Health Organisation, is a state of complete physical, social, emotional, cultural well being, not merely the absence of disease, and for which one can lead an economical and socially acceptable life.
The health need of the populace, by that definition becomes primary. It is sad that professional now think they are primary. It is in this light that different profession evolved to contribute their quota to ensure that programs and policies of the WHO come to pass.
The eye is a key organ of the body. The eye have been said to be the windows to the soul. Pertaining to any abnormality of the eye, some professionals are generally in charge of it. They are the Ophthalmologist, the Optometrist, the Optician.
An Ophthalmologist – Eye Consultant – is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from Optometrists and Opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat. As a medical doctor who has completed 6 – 9 years in the university, depending on the school, and at least six years of additional medical training in postgraduate school (this does not include 1 year internship, and another year of National Service); an Ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery. An Ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. Many Ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders.
In more developed climes, a specialist spends an extra 1 or 2 years sub specialising on a particular aspect of the eye. While Ophthalmologists are trained to care for all eye problems and conditions, some Eye M.D.s specialize in a specific area of medical or surgical eye care. This person is called a subspecialist. He or she usually completes one or two years of additional, more in-depth training called a fellowship in one of the main subspecialist area such as glaucoma, retina, cornea, pediatrics, neurology and plastic surgery, as well as others. This added training and knowledge prepares an ophthalmologist take care of more complex or specific conditions in certain areas of the eye or in certain groups of patients.
Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor.
In Nigeria, an Optometrist spends a minimum of 6 years in university, 1 year of internship program, 1 year of National Service, after which a Doctor of Optometry degree is awarded. They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.
Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual correction. Opticians are not permitted to diagnose or treat eye diseases.
The job description is clear. There is a limit and scope of operation for these three groups. I believe, the problems lies more between Ophthalmologist and Optometrist. Bickering as old as age itself have been between these 2 professional bodies. This articles do not aim to take sides but to merely state the obvious and let patients decide what is best for their health.
It is my opinion that the right professional be consulted for any problem. The patient may suffer if an action is taken to the contrary. Safe guard your vision, see the right professional. Be aware also that, a regular, complete, medical eye check, by an Ophthalmologist, should be encouraged in adults age 40 and above. This would help prevent some systemic diseases that was not detected.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, If you have any of these, be sure to visit an ophthalmologist:
- Bulging of one or both eyes;
- Dark curtain or veil that blocks your vision;
- Decreased vision, even if temporary;
- Diabetes mellitus;
- Distorted vision;
- Double vision;
- Excess tearing;
- Eyelid abnormalities;
- Family history of eye disease;
- Halos (colored circles around lights);
- High blood pressure;
- HIV or AIDS;
- Injury to the eye;
- Loss of peripheral (side) vision;
- Misaligned eyes;
- New floaters (black “strings” or specks in the vision) and/or flashes of light;
- Pain in the eye;
- Thyroid disease-related eye problems (Graves’ disease);
- Unusual red eye.
Now that you are Informed…. Stay Healthy.