Like most health 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 two eye care professions, the other being ophthalmology (which is a branch of Medicine).
Optometrists may serve the general public; specialize in work with the elderly, children, or partially-sighted persons who need specialized visual devices. Some optometrist develop and implement ways to protect workers eyes from on-the-job injury; or specialize in contact lenses, sports vision, or vision therapy.
Penlights and transilluminators can be used when assessing pupil light response, a neurological screening test. Specialty magnifiers, such as ophthalmoscopes and slit-lamp bio-microscopes, help with detailed inspection of external and internal anatomical ocular structures. Diagnostic eye drops may also be used to assess the various anatomical structures of the eyes.
Many optometrists use computerized equipment specifically designed to help diagnose and/or monitor certain ocular diseases. For example, many optometrists' offices have various visual field analyzers and tonometers that are helpful in diagnosing disease entity in early stages. Optometrists use digital imaging equipment, such as digital cameras to document appearance of the anterior and posterior parts of the eye. Corneal topographers are used to gather information on anterior aspects of the anatomy of the eye and cornea. Other sophisticated equipment such as Optical coherence tomography, GDX, or HRT II can be used for various disease testing and treatment.
Some ocular diseases can be associated with systemic, neural, or other disease complications. Most ocular disorders may be treated by an optometrist. However, all major surgical procedures are referred to or co-managed with an ophthalmologist.
Optical dysfunctions assessed by optometrists may include:
Examples of eye conditions diagnosed and treated by optometrists include:
Common examples of diseases of organ system and systemic origin with eye complications that can be recognized by evaluation of the ocular structures include:
AOA (American Optometric Association) definition of the care provided by optometrists (USA):
Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.
Optometrists provide a wide range of care, including:
The term optometrist was coined by Edmund Landolt in 1886, referring to the "fitter of glasses". Prior to this, there was a distinction between "dispensing" and "refracting" opticians in the 19th century. The latter were later called optometrists.
The first schools of optometry were established in 1850-1900 (in USA), and contact lenses were first used in 1940s
Optometry is officially recognized:
There are 8 universities which offer Optometry in the UK, they are: Anglia Ruskin University, Aston University (Birmingham), Bradford University, Cardiff University, Glasgow Caledonian University (Glasgow) City University (London) Manchester University, and University of Ulster (Coleraine)
Registration with the GOC is mandatory to practice in the UK. Members of the College of Optometrists may use the suffix MCOptom.
As primary eye care providers, optometrists are an integral part of the health care team. Prior to admittance into optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor’s degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students covers a variety of health, science and mathematics courses. Optometry school consists of four years of study focusing on the eye, vision, and systemic diseases.
Upon completion of optometry school, candidates graduate from accredited college of optometry and hold the Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Optometrists must pass a national examination administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO)http://www.optometry.org/passfail.cfm. The three-part exam includes basic science, clinical science and patient care. (The structure and format of the NBEO exams are subject to change beginning in 2008.) Some optometrists go on to complete 1-2 year residencies with training in a specific sub-specialty such as pediatric care, children’s vision, geriatric care, specialty contact lens (for keratoconus patients or other corneal dystrophy) and many others. All optometrists are required to fulfill continuing education requirements to stay current on the latest standards of care.
Since the formation of the European Union, "there exists a strong movement, headed by the Association of European Schools and Colleges of Optometry (AESCO), to unify the profession by creating a European-wide examination for optometry" and presumably also standardised practice and education guidelines within EU countries.
The profession of Optometry has been represented for over a century by the Association of Optometrists, Ireland [AOI]. In Ireland an optometrist must first complete a four year degree in Optometry at D.I.T. Kevin Street. Following successful completion of the a degree, an optometrist must then complete Professional Qualifying Examinations in order to be entered into the register of the Opticians Board [Bord na Radharcmhaistoiri]. Optometrists must be registered with the Board in order to practice in the Republic of Ireland.
The A.O.I. runs a comprehensive continuing education and professional development program on behalf of Irish optometrists. The legislation governing Optometry was drafted in 1956. The legislation restricts optometrists from using their full range of skills, training and equipment for the benefit of the Irish public. The amendment to the Act in 2003 addressed one of the most significant restrictions - the use of cycloplegic drugs to examine children.
Many of these sub-specialties are also recognised in other countries.
Ocular disease residencies involve co-management practice with other health professionals who are involvded primarily in those areas. Also the College of Optometrists in Vision Development provides certification for eye doctors in vision therapy, behavioral and developmental vision care, and "visual rehabilitation". Training in binocular vision and orthoptics sub-specialties are often integrated into either pediatric or vision therapy programs.