Optometry is a field in healthcare mainly involved with primary and general eye care. Optometry services include comprehensive eye examination to detect possible vision defects, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of eye conditions. People often confuse optometry with ophthalmology. But while both fields deal with eye care, they are also quite different in terms of services offered and the level of education and expertise of providers in each area.
Optometry is concerned with the provision of primary vision care, which ranges from sight testing and correction, diagnosis and treatment of different eye conditions, and management of vision changes. Ophthalmology, in comparison, deals with more than testing, diagnosis, and management. An ophthalmologist is more specialized and trained to diagnose and treat eye conditions using a wide range of treatment options, including complex surgical procedures.
An optometrist is a practitioner who provides primary and routine eye care. They perform comprehensive eye examinations, including internal and external assessments. An optometrist examines the entire visual system, detects and diagnoses any problems and injuries, and prescribes the most suitable treatment plan. An optometrist can prescribe glasses, contact lenses, and other optical aids to correct or manage the problem. However, an optometrist can do much more than prescribing glasses. Sometimes, an optometrist may also be licensed to use therapeutic drugs to treat conditions like glaucoma.
An optometrist can also provide general wellness checkups and detect general health issues like diabetes and other chronic illnesses. They also offer advisory services to their patients about maintaining eye health and answers all questions related to eye and vision. Optometrists work in hospitals in departments, and clinics specialized in treating people with eye problems. However, optometrists can also work in community-based settings and may also provide home-based care.
Education and Training
An optometrist is not a medical doctor. To become an optometrist in the United States, one must achieve a doctor of optometry (OD) degree by completing a four-year college program in sciences proceeded by another four years of assessed clinical training in optometry school. Thereafter, one is deemed skilled and well trained to practice optometry, which primarily entails performing eye examinations, detecting abnormalities, diagnosing conditions, and providing treatment options. After being granted licensure to practice, one can decide to acquire further education and specialize in various specialties in optometry such as pediatrics, vision therapy, contact lenses, neuro-optometry, or in specific eye conditions like glaucoma.
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National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017. Making eye health a population health imperative: Vision for tomorrow. National Academies Press.
Twa, M.D., 2019. Optometry and Vision Science 2019 Year-end Review. Optometry and Vision Science, 96(12), pp.893-895.