At some point in their life, every Finn needs help with their eyesight. This is when they will almost invariably seek help from an optometrist. Every year, around one million Finns annually visit an optician, or an optometrist as they are now called, to have their eyes tested, while almost half a million Finns visit an ophthalmologist. The threshold to approach an optician is low, in part because there are opticians’ shops in almost every municipality in Finland. A network of nearly 700 optical stores covers the entire Finland.
Optics stores combine product retail with health care services
An optics store is a health care unit covered by the law. The licensed optometrists working there are licensed health care professionals, while ophthalmologists, or eye specialists, are physicians specialising in eye diseases. Private eyecare service units – optical stores with their ophthalmology services, eye hospitals and the ophthalmology services of private health clinics – are responsible for primary eyecare services. Primary eyecare services cover measuring the operation of the visual system as well as the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of eye health and the most common eye diseases.
In Finland, public health care takes care of specialised medical care services for eye conditions.
An optics store also sells specialised eyewear products and services. These include glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses. Optics stores also offer many services related to vision and eye health from eye examinations to various eye laboratory tests. All the products and services are characterised by high quality and responsibility.
Professionals working in optics stores
Various vision and eyecare professionals work in an optics stores.
An optometrist is a licensed optician with an education that grants them a limited right to prescribe medication and qualifications to conduct eye health examinations. An optometrist conducts eye tests and eye health examinations and writes glasses prescriptions. An optometrist is obliged to refer the customer to an ophthalmologist if normal visual acuity cannot be reached or the customer has an eye disease. With the written authorisation of an ophthalmologist, an optometrist has the right to prescribe glasses to a person with an eye disease or who has undergone eye surgery.
A licensed optician is a licensed eyecare professional who examines vision problems. Compared to an optometrist, an optician’s basic education is less extensive in relation to eye health. Opticians must complete separate further training to gain a limited right to prescribe medication. The last opticians gratuated in December 2014.
An optician or an optometrist? In everyday language, Finns often mistakenly use the term optician. However, most Finns usually deal with an optometrist. Today, all optometry students are granted a limited right to prescribe medication as part of their basic education; in other words, they graduate directly as optometrists. In Finland, an optician is usually an optometrist.
An ophthalmologist, or an eye specialist, is a general physician specialising in the treatment of eye diseases. Ophthalmologists also conduct small procedures and surgical procedures, such as vision correction surgery and cataract surgery.
An optics sales assistant is an expert in eyewear trade who helps the customer in finding the right vision solutions for them, such as glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses.