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Career in Optometry

Optometry

Often confused with an ophthalmologist, an optometrist (also known as ophthalmic technician) is a professionally qualified primary eye care provider — akin to your family doctor for eyes. In India optometrists usually assist ophthalmologists or recommend patients to specialists for secondary and tertiary treatment. An optometrist tests the visual acuity and prescribes corrective lenses. Adept at handling eyetesting equipment to examine a person’s vision, the optometrist also fabricates lenses to prescribed specifications and fits them and other low-vision aids to suit individual requirements. While ophthalmology deals primarily with the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases, an optician deals with the dispensing of spectacles. In fact, optometry is the first line of defence against blindness as it deals with refraction, eyewear Rx, contact lens fitting, low-vision aid evaluation and referrals mainly to ophthalmology. Hi-precision machines are used to polish and harden lenses. With an increasing aged population and the growing incidence of macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy — optometrists can be an important part of the primary treatment. Besides the need for spectacles and contact lenses, low-vision aids and co-management of eye disorders spell good news for optometry as a profession. Optometrists usually work in eye hospitals, clinics and opticians’ outlets or with multinational vision care companies. You may also specialise in particular types of vision disorders (i.e. infractive errors like presbyopia, squints, colour blindness). After gaining experience in a private establishment or with a lens manufacturer, you can open your own business. You will be surprised to know that optometry features among the top 10 income-earning professions in the US. Moreover, this 700-year old profession is perhaps one of the nearly extinct breeds of jobs that offer regular work hours. Flexibility in practice and myriad choices in geographic location form the icing on the cake. Just look at the figures: every third blind person in the world lives in India, 75% of which can be ascribed to preventive blindness (cataract, refractive error), underscoring the need for timely detection and treatment. Whereas, India needs more than 40,000 optometrists, the figure stands at below 10,000. Moreover, with most people over 40 (and even earlier) requiring glasses/lenses, a skilled and experienced optometrist is always in demand. Faced with rising incidents of unqualified optometrists prescribing lenses in two-bit optical shops, of late there has been a demand for some sort of regularisation to prevent malpractice. Besides, most of the courses are still not recognised by the MHRD. There is a shortage of faculty as well. So make sure you enroll into a reputed institute. For further information, you could contact the Indian Optometric Association: www.indian-optometric-association.com