also known as doctors of optometry, or ODs, are the main providers of
vision care. They examine people's eyes to diagnose vision problems,
such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, and they test patients'
depth and color perception and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes.
Optometrists may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, or they may
provide other treatments, such as vision therapy or low-vision
also test for glaucoma and other eye diseases and diagnose conditions
caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure,
referring patients to other health practitioners as needed. They
prescribe medication to treat vision problems or eye diseases, and some
provide preoperative and postoperative care to cataract patients, as
well as to patients who have had corrective laser surgery. Like other
physicians, optometrists encourage preventative measures by promoting
nutrition and hygiene education to their patients to minimize the risk
of eye disease.
Although most work in
a general practice as a primary care optometrist, some optometrists
prefer to specialize in a particular field, such as contact lenses,
geriatrics, pediatrics, or vision therapy. As a result, an increasing
number of optometrists are forming group practices in which each group
member specializes in a specific area while still remaining a full scope
practitioner. For example, an expert in low-vision rehabilitation may
help legally blind patients by custom fitting them with a magnifying
device that will enable them to read. Some may specialize in
occupational vision, developing ways to protect workers' eyes from
on-the-job strain or injury. Others may focus on sports vision, head
trauma, or ocular disease and special testing. A few optometrists teach
optometry, perform research, or consult.
optometrists are private practitioners who also handle the business
aspects of running an office, such as developing a patient base, hiring
employees, keeping paper and electronic records, and ordering equipment
and supplies. Optometrists who operate franchise optical stores also may
have some of these duties.
Optometrists should not
be confused with ophthalmologists or dispensing opticians.
Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery, as well as
diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries. Like optometrists, they
also examine eyes and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Dispensing opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses and, in some States, may
fit contact lenses according to prescriptions written by
ophthalmologists or optometrists.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.