Optometrists are qualified to provide all aspects of primary eye health care. They must be registered and you can ask to see their annual practising certificate and scope of practice documents. Under New Zealand law only a registered optometrist may use the title optometrist and prescribe glasses or contact lenses. An optometrist may also prescribe or sell a range of of medicines for treating eye infections and allergies.
Because most eye conditions, even those that can make you blind, affect your vision in some way it is always necessary for an optometrist to examine your eyes thoroughly to first make a diagnosis and then prescribe a treatment.
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Optometrists who are members of the NZ Association of Optometrists are bound by professional ethics and clinical guidelines to provide the highest standards of eye health and vision care.
More than a million eye exams are performed by our optometrists each year. Only around sixty percent of people examined need to be prescribed glasses or contact lenses. The remaining forty percent require eye health care, active monitoring, medical treatment or just reassurance that all is well. For some conditions an optometrist will refer patients to an eye specialist. In the last two years it is estimated that 10,000 referrals by optometrists in New Zealand resulted in the saving of sight.
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Ophthalmologists are medical specialists who treat serious diseases of the eye by surgical or therapeutic means. Nearly all ophthalmologists are now fellows of surgical colleges and by the nature of their ultimate skill level are secondary and tertiary eye health care providers who work in hospitals and private clinics.
A dispensing optician is able to dispense an optical prescription written by an optometrist. This may include taking facial measurements and the giving of advice on lenses and frames. An optical dispenser does not examine eyes or write prescriptions.