Optometrists are important medical doctors that play a significant role in eye health. Doctors of optometry encourage healthy sight and eye care in children and adults. If you find that you need to use the services of one of these professionals, here is a list of important key terms that you should be familiar with.
OD – This stands for oculus doctor, the degree that these professionals attain when they receive their medical license. It is awarded after an intensive 4 year postgraduate degree program. If a physician has OD after his or her name, you know that they have the required education needed to assist you.
Opticians – This specialist fills prescriptions for eyeglasses. They do not perform tests, but rather make and dispense eyeglasses and contacts.
Phoropter – This is an medical instrument used by optometrists and ophthalmologists to test your vision. It contains multiple lenses used for refraction. This measures the patient’s refractive error and can also determine the prescription that the patient needs. A patient will look through the phoropter at a chart that contains letters. The physician examines the results and uses the patient’s feedback to determine what settings are most helpful.
Astigmatism – This is a very common sight disorder in which an unequal refraction of light across causes the patient to see blurry and distorted images.
Hyperopia – Known as far-sightedness, this is a condition in which light coming into the line of sight is focused behind the retina. This makes it difficult to focus on close up images. The cornea being flat or being too short often causes this.
Myopia – Known as near-sightedness, this condition occurs when any light that comes in is focused short of the retina. Images that are far away appear blurry and distorted. This is a common genetic condition.
Optometrists, or doctors of optometry (ODs), are doctors that diagnose and treat eye problems and diseases. They can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses for vision problems or even medication for infections. Some specialize in pediatric eye care, but most optometrists offer services for all ages. Optometrists are different from ophthalmologists, which are doctors of medicine (MDs).
Optometrists can provide primary eye care, such as exams and diagnoses, but they cannot perform invasive medical or major surgery, such as laser vision correction. Optometrists can treat patients with astigmatisms, cataracts, and glaucoma. Tests can help assess color and depth perception in patients and even target vision problems. A minor surgery may be done in an office by an optometrist.
Optometrists can also prescribe and fit people for glasses, and often have a wide range of glasses and contact lenses for sale within their office. Patients can make an appointment to get fitted for glasses, have a vision exam, or choose new contacts.
The practice of optometry is nothing new. In fact, it has been a profession for hundreds of years. However, the first optometry schools in the United States were not established until the early 1900s. Regulations regarding practice have evolved over the years, but ODs must obtain a bachelor's degree, then complete special schooling for a license.
Some optometrists own their own businesses and offer family care. Others operate within a private clinic. Many have subspecialties, such as vision therapy or pediatric care. Patients looking for a new optometrist or specialist can check with their insurance company for covered doctors or check listings online to find one located in their community.