Monday, July 20, 2015

The Eyes Have It

When you need to see an eye doctor, you can choose one of several kinds—all with names related to Greek or Latin words for the eye. I usually visit an ophthalmologist, but I’ve also had dealings with an optometrist, an optician, and an ocularist. Fortunately I have not (yet) needed an orthoptist. 

If you are not certain of the differences among them, allow me help you see the light. An ophthalmologist is an M.D. with a specialty in the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and visual problems of all kinds. The word comes from the Greek ophthalmos (“eye”) and literally means “science of eyes.”

An optometrist is concerned primarily with improving vision, usually through diagnosis of visual disorders and the prescription of corrective lenses. Optometrists also hold doctoral degrees, but they are D.O.’s (doctors of optometry) rather than M.D.’s. Ordinarily optometrists do not treat eyes surgically. The word’s origin is the Greek opsis (“view”) and metron (“measurement”).

An oculist (from the Latin word for "eye") is a more general term for an eye specialist, which may refer to an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.

An optician is a technician who designs, fits, and dispenses corrective lenses, after a patient has been examined and the lenses have been prescribed by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Ordinarily an optician does not hold a doctoral degree. The word comes from the Greek optikos (“sight-related”) and the suffix –ician, which indicates “practitioner of.”

An ocularist (from the Latin ocularis, or “eye”) is a technician who specializes in the fabrication and fitting of ocular prostheses, or artificial eyes. Training and certification vary from state to state.

And, finally, an orthoptist (from the Greek ortho, or “correct”) is a health-care professional who has received special training in the treatment of amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (squinting), and other eye movement problems. They are therapists who teach patients to manage these disorders through muscular control and other therapeutic exercises.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou always keeps his eye on the ball—which does limit what he is able to see.

     Please permit me to use the vernacular
     In relating the tale of Count Dracula,
            Who corrected his vision
            And could see with precision
     Through lenses you might call spectacular.



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