In general terms, optics is the science of vision and light. An optician is the person that assembles and dispenses eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct vision impairments, which are prescribed by ophthalmologists (a medical practitioner) and optometrists.
The optometry profession is defined by the World Council of Optometry (WCO) as follows:
“Optometry is a healthcare profession that is autonomous, educated, and regulated (licensed/registered), and optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.”
Generally optometry has emerged from optics, as the education of opticians has expanded to include clinical subjects and as their scope of practice has been enlarged as a consequence. Some opticians have become optometrists.
Optometry and optics are linked professions and are in some countries of Europe considered to be one profession. In other countries they reflect separate areas of professional activity and are considered as separate professions.
Depending on the level of training and scope of practice, we can differentiate the following groups in Europe:
- dispensing opticians
- refracting opticians
- optometrists who are trained to detect pathology
- optometrists using diagnostic drugs and a limited range of therapeutic drugs
The varied scope of practice of optometrists and opticians in Europe is determined by the extent of available training, the law, the organisation of the profession and the relative size of ophthalmology.
ECOO Blue Book
To illustrate the field of activities of the profession of optometry and optics and its growing importance in public health in Europe, ECOO collated the so called “Blue Book” , which is based on the information provided by the ECOO membership.
The Blue Book loos at five main areas of the profession:
- The number and size of the profession
- The status of the profession
- The scope of practice of the profession
- The profession’s role in public health
- The education and training of the profession.
Download the ECOO Blue Book 2015
Download the ECOO Blue Book 2008