What Does an Optometrist Do?
A Doctor of Optometry (OD) is an independent, primary health care provider who examines the visual system, the eye and associated structures, as well as diagnoses, treats and manages related diseases and disorders.
Optometry involves much more than prescribing and fitting glasses and contact lenses. ODs are trained to evaluate a patient’s visual condition and to determine the best treatment for that condition. ODs are usually considered to be the primary care providers for patients seeking eye and vision care.
ODs often care for:
- Corneal abrasions, ulcers or infections as well as glaucoma and other eye diseases that require treatment with pharmaceutical agents or management.
- Visual skill problems such as the inability to move, align, fixate and focus the ocular mechanism.
- The inability to properly process and interpret information requiring perception, visualization and retention.
- Poor vision/body coordination when one interacts with the environment.
- Clarity problems such as simple near- or far-sightedness or complications due to the aging process, disease, accident or malfunction.
ODs also work to:
- Diagnose, manage and refer hypertension, diabetes and other systemic diseases that are often first detected in the eye.
- Provide pre- and post-surgical care of cataracts, refractive laser treatment, retinal problems and other conditions.
- Encourage preventative measures such as monitoring infants' and children’s visual development, evaluating job/school/hobby–related tasks and promoting nutrition, hygiene and public health education.
What is the Outlook for the Optometric Profession?
Recently, through health care reform and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more Americans have gained access to health insurance. In addition, the ACA requires that most health care plans now include a pediatric vision care benefit. Millions of children have gained health insurance coverage and will have access to an annual, comprehensive eye exam and treatment from an optometrist.
Do Optometrists Have Specialties?
Most optometrists practice “full-scope,” primary care optometry and treat and manage all forms of visual and ocular conditions. However, a practitioner may choose to concentrate his/her practice on treating a selected population or visual condition.
Many optometrists also focus on specific sub-specialties, such as pediatrics, vision therapy, ocular disease, head trauma and other areas.
What if I Want to do Research or Teach?
Students interested in gaining an even greater understating of the visual system so that they can pursue a career in research or academia will likely need to obtain an MS and/or PhD degree, in conjunction or independently of an OD degree.
(Some of this information above was adapted from the American Schools and Colleges of Optometry ASCO)