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Licensed Opticians in Canada

The Registered (or Licensed) Optician is part of Canada’s health-care industry and its members have expertise, training, and formal education in determining a patient’s ophthalmic needs. Simply, an optician is to the optical industry as a pharmacist is to the medical field - opticians make recommendations, offer advice, problem solve where needed, and in general consult with the patient regarding their visual requirements. Spectacle or contact lens dispensing may be based on:

a new prescription generated by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, a ‘sight-test’ performed by a qualified individual, or through duplication of the patient’s current eyewear prescription. Analyzing the needs and making appropriate recommendations to fulfill the public’s eyewear and contact lens requirements are perhaps the most important functions of an optician. In Canada, spectacles or contact lenses must be fitted and dispensed by an optician, optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Each Canadian province has its own regulatory College or Board that provides registration or licensure to its Opticians. The Regulatory body (often known as a ‘College’ but separate from, and not to be confused with, an educational institute) has a government mandate to protect the public. This includes enforcement of provincial statutes (Opticians Act) and public awareness campaigns In Nova Scotia, our regulatory body is the Nova Scotia College of Dispensing Opticians.

Of Interest to Consumers:

Purchasing Eyewear on the Internet

Online purchasing has made its way into virtually every aspect of life. In many cases, shopping on the Internet is easy and convenient and provides a quality, reliable service. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The attraction of buying prescription eyewear over the Internet is that it may be faster or cheaper than visiting an optical store. But at what cost?

Buying prescription eyewear is not like shopping for books or clothes. In Nova Scotia, Licensed Opticians are regulated and guaranteed to be highly trained, follow a standard of care, ethical and accountable. Only registered contact lens fitters are legally permitted to fit contact lenses and  automated refracting opticians are legally permitted to assess visual acuity.

The information provided below refers only to those circumstances where prescription eyewear is purchased over the Internet from someone who is not authorized to dispense – that is, from someone who is not a Licensed Optician, Optometrist of Ophthalmologist. Purchasing prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses from someone you do not know brings with it a range of risks. Some of these risks relate to the health of the eye (e.g. improperly fitted contact lenses can cause injury to the cornea) and some relate to the effectiveness of the eyewear (e.g. eyeglasses with lenses that do not match a patient’s eye measurements can impair vision). Improperly fitted eyewear can interfere with your ability to see, causing impaired depth perception, blurred vision, falls and other accidents, and worsened near or far-sightedness.

The following is just a partial list of the risks and problems posed by Internet dispensing:

  • You have no guarantee that you are dealing with a Licensed Optician, Optometrist or Ophthalmologist. Vision care via the internet may be and sometimes is provided by inexperienced people who are not members of one of the regulated health professions.
  • Opticians have the ability to recognize health issues dealing with the cornea and to refer a patient to another health professional before any serious harm can come to the eye.
  • Opticians are also trained to take proper anatomical measurements, make appropriate initial and ongoing adjustments to eyewear, and to perform thorough pre- and post-assessment of contact lenses to ensure vision health and safety, comfort, peak performance and clear accurate vision. You cannot get this kind of care over the Internet.
  • Eyeglasses and contact lenses need to be fitted to each individual patient based on measurements of the eye and face. This also cannot be done over the Internet.
  • Improperly fitted eyeglasses and contact lenses can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea.
  • Contact lenses are “medical devices” regulated by Health Canada. When you purchase contact lenses over the Internet, you may get a product that does not meet Health Canada’s requirements for safety, effectiveness and quality.
  • You may get a product that has been recalled due to safety concerns.
  • You may get a counterfeit product (e.g. a lower-quality product that is falsely labelled as being a higher-quality brand).
  • You may receive a product that has not been stored properly. Contact lenses need to be protected from freezing and heat. When you order contacts over the Internet, you do not know where the product has been stored or for how long.
  • You may receive a product that has expired. Contact lenses have an expiry date, after which it is not necessarily safe to use the product.

Prescription eyewear is not “one size fits all”. Opticians are front line, regulated health care professionals who serve as public educators on eye care issues including disease prevention and detection and are trained to answer patients’ questions on a broad range of eye care issues, from dry eyes to corrective surgery. Opticians determine what kinds of lenses and frames are required based on a patient’s prescription, needs and individual circumstances. Opticians also receive training in eye health problems and may recognize an issue that should be treated by an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist.


Of the five senses - sight, sound, smell, touch and taste - the brain relies first and foremost on sight to provide essential information. The ability of the brain to assess and evaluate situations, determine courses of action and debate the risks associated with specific courses of action are determined, in part, by its ability to understand the images transferred from the eye. Only Opticians, Optometrists and Ophthalmologists have the necessary knowledge, skill, judgment, and accountability to dispense eyewear safely and competently.

Beyond any doubt, poorly dispensed eyewear can be detrimental to your vision. It is critical that patients deal only with regulated eye care professionals who will ensure that their eyes, and their vision, remain healthy and protected.

The NSSDO: Nova Scotia Society of Dispensing Opticians supports the National Public Awareness Initiative by the Opticians Council of Canada. Learn more about Licensed Opticians & your vision.




The Opticians Council of Canada (OCC) urges consumers to heed their warnings when considering cosmetic contact lenses (non-corrective coloured lenses) for their Halloween costumes. Cosmetic lenses, sold over-the-counter as costume accessories at some retail outlets and online, are used to change the colour and/or appearance of eyes.

While cosmetic lenses are readily available, consumers need to make the right educated choices.
"Improper lenses can lead to allergic reaction, infection, swelling of the cornea, and even blindness," says Robert Dalton, Executive Director of the Opticians Association of Canada.

"Severe eye infections have been reported in as little as 24 hours, and some of this damage can be difficult to treat or repair." The OCC recommends consulting a Licensed Optician to help you make the right decision on a product that won't harm your vision. A Licensed Optician can also provide training on contact lens use and instruction on hygiene. "Getting a cheap pair of contact lenses online or at the costume store for your werewolf outfit seems like a great idea- until your vision is permanently damaged by improper fit or you use a bad lens," says Drew Jeffries of the College of Opticians of Alberta. "This is when that cheap pair of lenses has cost you more than you bargained for."

Here are emergency care instructions if you find yourself in a situation with any contact lens that has not been fitted or cared for properly, and is now difficult to remove:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate.
  2. Gently try to move the contact lens. If you can't move it at all, apply hydrating eye drops and once the lens has been rehydrated, attempt to remove it with care.
  3. Go see your closest vision care professional to have it removed safely and properly, and to treat irritation immediately.

Licensed Opticians are regulated vision health professionals who ensure that you receive the essential care and education necessary when choosing contact lenses, eyeglasses or low vision aids. They are trained to recommend and safely fit a full range of devices that help improve your eyesight and take into account your lifestyle, environment, and aesthetics.

They can also guide you along a safe and appropriate path to resolve all your vision health issues.
To find out more about what a Licensed Optician is, or to find one in your area visit

The Opticians Council of Canada (OCC) is an Opticians organization with representatives from all Canadian provincial regulatory bodies, associations and teaching institutions as participating delegates. The Opticians Council of Canada is an incorporated body under the Canada Corporations Act and received final Letters Patent in July 2010.

The organization shares a common interest in eye care and vision health. The OCC provides national leadership on Canada's vision health issues and in the development of related public policy. OCC accomplishes its goals through the mandates of its member associations by consultation, collaboration, advocacy, research, education and service. The OCC believes that all Canadians are entitled to full and equal access to eye care.

For more information about Opticians Council of Canada visit

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