What is Optometry

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A quick guide to the world of optometry

Optometry is a health care profession concerned with eyes and related structures, as well as vision, visual systems, and vision information processing in humans. Like most professions, optometry education, certification, and practice is regulated in most countries.

Optometrists and optometry-related organizations interact with governmental agencies, other health care professionals, and the community to deliver eye and vision care. Optometry is one of four eye care professions, the others being Ophthalmology (which is a branch of surgery). Opticians and Orthoptics(a sub-specialty of ophthalmology primarily dealing with strabismus).
A profession which began in the early 20th century, optometry is a health care discipline which has grown significantly with advanced educational programs and the adoption of new state laws for the use of diagnostic and therapeutic drugs in optometric care.

"Doctors of optometry are independent primary health care providers who specialize in the examination, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as the diagnosis of related systemic conditions." (definition adopted by the American Optometric Association)

Today, doctors of optometry provide vision care to more than 70% of Americans. Conditions typically treated by Doctors of Optometry include:

  • Diseases and disorders of the anterior segment of the eye such as corneal abrasions/ulcers/infections, glaucoma and the management of other ocular diseases
    and conditions.
  • Visual skills problems such as the effective ability to move, align, fixate and focus the ocular mechanism as in reading, driving, computer use, hobbies, etc.
  • The inability to properly process and interpret visual information such as in problems of perception, visualization and retention as in the learning task.
  • Poor vision-body coordination as one interacts with the environment such as in sports, occupations, or just everyday spacial judgments.
  • Clarity problems, be they simple near or farsightedness or the complications due to the aging process, disease, accidents or malfunction.

Doctors of Optometry also are concerned with the diagnosis, management and referral, when required, of such systemic diseases as hypertension, diabetes and others which are often first detected in the eye preventive measures as in infants and children's visual development, job/school/hobby related tasks, and nutrition and hygiene education.

Though Doctors of Optometry are trained in all aspects of ocular and visual conditions and most practice Primary care optometry, there are those who choose to specialize in:

  • Pediatrics
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Contact Lenses
  • Ocular Disease
  • Vision Therapy
  • Geriatrics
  • Occupational Vision
  • Low Vision
  • Sports Vision
  • Rehabilitation Vision

These "specialties" do not require additional certification as theyare part of the clinical training in the four-year optometric curriculum.

Technological and diagnostic advances have made the profession of optometry one that is on the cutting edge of modern health care. Also, the ability to choose your type of practice, attractive compensation, flexible hours, and status within health care are a few reasons why men and women choose optometry as their profession.