An optometrist is a type of medical specialist who treats the eyes. A doctor in this field does vision checkups, review of eye health, diagnosis of conditions of the eye and correction of vision problems that are less significant. Some of the conditions that might be seen by this type of professional include myopia, astigmatism, presbyopia, glaucoma and cataracts.
At some level, these eye doctors can prescribe medications and offer basic treatment for some of the common eye conditions. They provide basic eye care and may treat glaucoma and similar conditions. The type of medications offered are those which relate to the specific condition. Most patients looking for routine checkups and fitting of prescription lenses will visit an optometrist office.
The role of these doctors in the United States is regulated by the individual states. Generally speaking the doctors can diagnose and treat eye diseases by using therapeutic drugs and topical diagnostic balms. In 47 of the 50 states, the medical care workers may prescribe oral medications. In some states, but not all, a Doctor of Optometry may perform a number of laser surgical procedures. For other conditions, the optometry specialist will refer the patients to other specialists such as medical practitioners, neurologists or ophthalmologists.
Obtaining prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses is the primary reason patients visit one of these doctors. This has been the historical role of these doctors. However, over time, the specialists have expanded the scope of practice to be much more comprehensive. This level will vary from state to state.
These doctors may prescribe medications for pain or oral steroids. Offering antibiotics and antiviral oral medications is more commonly accepted today than in the past. These prescriptions are usually related to common conditions that are identified during routine examinations.
The prescriptions that are topical have long been used by the eye doctors. These include eye drops for glaucoma therapy. A patient with a condition called red eye may have drops prescribed. In some instances, medications that are injected can be prescribed by the medical doctors such as general practitioners or ophthalmologists.
Some optometrists are able to implement certain types of surgical techniques. These might include the removal of a foreign body in the eye. If the cornea is injured, the doctor can perform surgery. Surgical procedures for removal of growths, lumps or imperfections around the eyelids can be done by the doctor.
The educational component of this type of doctor is done at a specialized institution, following the completion of an undergraduate degree. The specialized postgraduate program requires four years of study at one of the twenty schools in the United States that offer the Doctor of Optometry degree.
Even after obtaining a O. D. (Oculus Doctor) degree, the optometrist must sit for and pass an examination before being licensed to practice. The competition to enter one of the programs is high and the test eliminated additional doctors from the licensed rolls. Those people who value the gift of vision will maintain a close relationship with these eye specialists.