If we asked you what a dentist does, you’d immediately know they work with teeth. What if we asked you the same question about optometrists?
You’ve probably heard the term before. You’ve likely even seen one at some point in your life. After all, there’s almost 40,000 of them working in the US!
So what is an optometrist, and what does an optometrist do? Keep reading to find out!
What Is Optometry?
The word “optometry” comes from the Greek words that combine the ideas of “viewing” and “measuring.”
If you guessed this has something to do with your eyes, you’re correct! Optometry is the field of science that deals with vision, optical aids, optical instruments, and eye care.
What Do Optometrists Do?
An optometrist is a health care specialist trained to examine the eyes. They can detect defects in vision, signs of injury, eye diseases, and other problems with general eye health.
Optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate studies, followed by a four-year program after college to get their Doctor of Optometry degree. While they are medical professionals, they are not medical doctors (MDs).
Their daily job duties might include:
- Conducting eye exams
- Evaluating binocular vision (depth perception)
- Assessing eye diseases
- Writing prescription
- Providing pre-op and post-op care
Optometrists begin with an eye exam to determine the needs of each patient. They’ll then write a prescription for eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other visual aids to improve the patient’s vision.
It’s important to note the difference between optometrists and two closely related fields: ophthalmologists and opticians.
Ophthalmologists complete the same education as optometrists, but they go a step further and become medical doctors (MDs). This allows them to diagnose and treat any eye diseases, as well as perform eye surgery.
Opticians, on the other hand, are technicians trained to work closely with optometrists and ophthalmologists. They use prescriptions given to them to design, verify, and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, they do not make diagnoses or write prescriptions themselves.
Where Do Optometrists Work?
Most optometrists operate a private practice in standalone offices. Some are self-employed, while others work in conjunction with a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic.
A kids optometrist might work at a children’s hospital or a private clinic. Optometrists might also work in optical goods stores.
Optometrists with different specialties might team up and open a group practice with other doctors or eye care professionals. Some might focus on a particular age group, such as infants and children, while others specialize in one particular eye disease.
Experienced optometrists may teach in graduate schools or postsecondary programs. Others conduct research in optometry colleges or do consulting work for the eye care industry.
What dentists are to teeth, optometrists are to eyes. They’re experts in everything related to eye and vision care.
So the next time someone asks you, “What does an optometrist do?”, you can give them an educated answer!
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