What is an Optometrist?

(Definition provided by the American Optometric Association)

Optometrists are independent, primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures as well as diagnose related systemic conditions.

Optometrists are an integral part of the health care team. As eye care practitioners, they are skilled in the co-management of eye health and vision care. They examine the structures of the eye to detect and diagnose:

  • Vision conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia
  • Binocular vision conditions such as convergence insufficiency, which can cause eye discomfort and difficulty reading
  • Eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disorders
  • Systemic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes
  • Optometrists prescribe and/or provide eyeglasses, contact lenses, low vision aids and vision therapy.
  • They prescribe medications to treat eye diseases and perform certain surgical procedures.
  • Optometrists also do testing to determine the patient's ability to focus and coordinate the eye, judge depth perception, and see colors accurately.

“What is the difference between an Ophthalmologist and an Optometrist?”

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors first — they undergo advanced training in order to specialize in the health of the eye. They will also evaluate the refractive state of the eye in order to assess that the eye is capable of providing good vision. This assessment is another way in which an ophthalmologist verifies the health of the eye. An eye which is capable of good vision is an indication of a clear eye with healthy supportive structures.

Optometrists are vision care specialists first. Like Ophthalmologists, Optometrists also assess and manage the health of the eye, as healthy eyes are a necessary component in providing the patient with good vision. Optometrists assess additional components of vision and visual function, including: how well the eyes focus; how the eyes coordinate as a team; how well the eyes track moving objects. Optometrists are primary care providers in eye health and vision care. They are trained to manage a broad variety of medical concerns, and they may provide medical prescriptions. When appropriate, they may refer to Ophthalmologists when a specialist is needed.

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