Optometrists (also known as “ophthalmic opticians”) are independent, primary health care specialists/providers who have undergone years of study and training to manage, treat, diagnose, and examine disorders and diseases in vision. They are also trained to examine the eye and associated structures for abnormalities, signs of injury, and ocular diseases and problems with general health and systemic conditions.
These healthcare specialists are an integral part of the eye doctor category and as eye care practitioners they are experienced and skilled in co-management and treatment of sight-related problems and eye health. Typically, optometrists conduct eye exams on patients to examine structures of the eye to diagnose and detect conditions like presbyopia, astigmatism, farsightedness, and nearsightedness. Additionally, they also detect:
- Systemic diseases like diabetes and hypertension
- Eye diseases like retinal disorders, glaucoma, cataracts, and other degenerative diseases
- Binocular vision conditions like the insufficiency of convergence, which can cause difficultly in reading and eye discomfort.
Apart from diagnosing and examining the eye and related structures, optometrists provide and/or prescribe vision therapy, surgery, low vision aids, contact lenses, and eyeglasses. They may also perform certain surgical procedures to reverse damage to your eyesight and prescribe medications to treat eye diseases, like glaucoma, cataracts, etc. In a regular eye exam, the optometrist determines whether the patient can see colors accurately, focus and coordinate eye movement, and judge depth perception.
Why See An Optometrist?
Sight is considered by people as the most important sense. This is what makes enhancing your vision and preserving your eye health important. Optometrists are professionals who dedicate their lives to taking care of the eyes of patients. Many people around the world receive primary eye care from their local optometry office.
However, what most people don’t know is that optometrists do more than just prescribing medications and eyeglasses for a treatment of diseases. These skilled professionals are qualified to advise on eye care, so you can be more careful and efficiently manage and treat eye diseases.
As doctors, optometrists diagnose diseases related to the body and the eyes. Many systemic diseases, like high blood pressure and diabetes, are first detected by these eye care professionals, along with other health problems like brain tumor, eyelid skin cancer, and brain tumor. As part of your healthcare team, optometrists work with your general doctor, a family physician and other professionals to coordinate and ensure you receive proper care.
What Jobs Do Optometrists Perform?
- Work with community groups and health fairs to provide vision screenings
- Provide informationally and educational programs for schools and civic groups
- Work with schools, colleges, and universities for programs on eye care
- Consult with businesses with regards to environmental vision
- Set up safety vision programs for those required who perform strenuous activities
- Coordinate and evaluate care for refractive surgery patients
- Work with athletes and other sports professionals to improve eye coordination
- Provide rehabilitative services for patients or victims with impaired vision or head injuries
- Provide specialized vision aids for those who have degenerative diseases or are visually impaired
- Prescribe contact lenses and glasses to patients with poor eyesight
- Provide emergency treatment and examination for cases of eye-related injuries
- Arrange for special surgical care if need or treat eye injuries via medication
- Provide post-operative care, diagnose cataracts, and coordinate with eye surgeons
- Examine eyes for vision and health-related problems.
How Do Optometrists Compare to Other Medical Professionals?
Similar to dentists, physicians, and other healthcare specialists, optometrists are subject to the same levels of oversight and regulation to assure quality care. Optometric education closely parallels courses from other independent doctoral level practitioners, like physicians, dentists, and podiatrists.
Additionally, the same organizations that accredit healthcare schools are responsible for accrediting optometry schools. Optometrists must also pass National Board Examinations and testing by the state Optometric Examiners to get a license to provide eye care services.