What is Optometry?
Taken from the American Optometric Association Website:
Doctors of optometry (O.D.s/optometrists), America’s primary eye health care providers, are the frontline of eye and vision care. Doctors of optometry are essential health care providers and are recognized as physicians under Medicare. They examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, they play a major role in an individual’s overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases, and diagnosing, treating and managing ocular manifestations of those diseases.
Doctors of optometry complete pre-professional undergraduate education in a college or university and four years of professional education at a college of optometry, leading to the doctor of optometry (O.D.) degree. Many doctors of optometry complete an additional residency in a specific area of practice.
What kinds of eye problems does an optometrist diagnose?
The variety of ocular conditions diagnosed by optometrists can be extraordinary. Retinal diseases, corneal diseases, cataracts, glaucoma and systemic problems like diabetes and high blood pressure and neurological diseases (like certain kinds of brain tumors) the list is very long and interesting! Of course there’s also the wellness exams when glasses and/or contacts are prescribed.
Do all optometrists practice optometry the same way?
NO! There are many different ways that optometry is practiced. We call this “modality.”
- Chain Stores/Retail
- Privately Owned Offices
- Private Equity
Each modality is unique as they each place a higher emphasis on specific and different aspects of eye care.
Are there any specialties in optometry?
Yes! Many optometrists begin their career in primary care, but often find they prefer to specialize in something like:
- Low Vision
- Vision Therapy
- Specialty Contact Lenses
- Sports Vision
- Corneal Disease
What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?
Although both are recognized as doctors, and many optometrists (OD) and ophthalmologists (MD) work in tandem with one another to care for their mutual patients, there are a couple of fundamental differences between these two medical professions.
Scope of Practice
While both are trained and licensed to detect, diagnose, and prescribe medications for treatment, only ophthalmologists are licensed to perform invasive surgeries (such as a cataract removal) on the eye. Since the ability to perform surgery is the fundamental differentiator between these two professions, optometrists are best characterized as the PCP of eyes and the ophthalmologists tend to emphasize surgical procedures.
Board of Regulation
Ophthalmologists must pass standardized tests that are recognized on a national level and therefore as a whole, their scope of care is standard regardless of state. They also complete a 4 year undergraduate degree, followed by 4 years of medical school, with an additional 4 years of training in their specialty including a surgical residency. Optometrists are licensed by state and must pass state boards for the state in which they practice. Although training and education for optometrists is maximized, the scope of what procedures they’re permitted to perform or medications they’re permitted to prescribe varies from state to state.