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Optometrist, Oftalmologist and Optician : The 3’s “O”

What is the 3’s “O”?


An Optometrist is a professional eye care provider. Optometrist receive education primarily about eyes and are well-trained to perform eye examination during their 4 years of optometry degree course in the public or private institutes of higher learning. Some Optometrist continue with postgraduate studies (master / doctors of philosophy) in specialty optometry such as contact lenses, binocular vision, low vision, public health optometry and etc.

The main job scope of an Optometrist is to examine the eyes, to detect and determine the presence of vision-related problems in all age range. During an eye examination, Optometrists are able to detect vision problems caused by refractive error (short sightedness or long sightedness), squint (eyes not straight), and eye diseases such as red eye, glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and others.

Optometrist will then decide the appropriate treatment needed either by glasses or contact lenses or eye exercises/visual therapy or combination of all these. For vision problems caused by refractive error, the Optometrist would advise on several types of lenses that best suit the patient and subsequently dispensing glasses.

For vision problems caused by eye diseases or requiring surgical intervention, the patient will be referred to an Ophthalmologist for treatment first before an Optometrist can prescribe glasses or eye exercises/visual therapy (example child with cataract, squint and red eye).

In Malaysian government hospitals, Optometrist and Ophthalmologist work closely together in one department to provide integrated eye care for their patients. Optometrists are responsible for; determining visual acuity; determining intra ocular lens (IOL) power for cataract surgery;   prescribing special low vision aid (refer low vision); prescribing special contact lenses (refer contact lenses); handling special diagnostic machine for eye; co-manage special clinics such as; diabetes, glaucoma and pre-and post-operative care for eye surgery; eye care promotion activity; management and others.

Some Optometrist in the Ministry of Health Malaysia are trained to work independently (without ophthalmologist) as the primary eye care provider at government district hospitals. They have to examine the eye, treat and manage the simple case. Complicated cases that need surgical intervention will be referred to the Ophthalmologist.

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Checking power of glasses in children; in a hospital clinic setting Checking power of glasses or IOL in baby in a hospital operating theatre


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Vision screening at kindergarten


An Ophthalmologist is a medically-trained doctor who specializes in eye diseases. They can offer total eye care including eye examination, diagnosing and treating eye diseases either with medications or performing surgery on the eyes and the areas around the eyes.

More specialized area in Ophthalmology including : Medical Retina, Vitreo Retina, Glaucoma, Cornea, Oculoplasty, Neuro Ophthalmology and Pediatric Ophthalmology/ Strabismus service.


The main job scope of an Optician is dispensing lenses to fit into frame or making glasses. Optician will assists you in choosing the correct lens and frames that best suit you based on the size, shape, color and style. Presently all registered Opticians in Malaysia are only allowed to practice in optical outlets.

In some countries like US and Canada, only Ophthalmologists and Optometrists are allowed to examine the eyes, determine refractive power and fit contact lenses. In Malaysia, only few registered Opticians, who had passed the examination organized by the Malaysian Optical Council (MOC), Ministry of Health have the privilege to dispense contact lenses and this falls under a special category.

Under the Optical Act (1991), each registered Opticians are required to display their certificates issued by the MOC at the public area of their premises. The 3 categories of certificates issued;

  1. Full registration certificate
  2. Annual practicing certificate
  3. Photo Name Certificate

To differentiate between Opticians;

  1. Blue Full Registration Certificate (Basic) : Allowed to dispense glasses only. (Blue certificate)
  2. Full Registration Certificate (Additional) : Qualified Optician to prescribe and dispense contact lenses, (Pink certificate).


  1. Difference between Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician. http://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/132
  2. What Are the Differences between Ophthalmologists, Optometrists and optician http://www.djo.harvard.edu/site.php?url=/patients/pi/439?
  3. Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, Opticians. Who should I see. http:// doctorsofoptometry.ca/optometrists-ophthalmologists-opticians-who-should-i-see


Last Reviewed : 22 March 2016
Writer : Pn. Nur Hafiza Binti Mokhtar
Translator : Pn. Nur Hafiza Binti Mokhtar
Accreditor : Pn. Nor Aini Binti Hanafi