Optometry is a health care profession concerned with eyes and related structures, as well as vision, visual systems, and vision information processing in humans. Optometrists (also known as ophthalmic opticians) are licensed medical professionals trained to prescribe and fit lenses to improve vision, and to diagnose and treat various eye diseases. In most U.S. states optometrists are licensed to treat eye diseases through topical therapeutic agents and oral drugs, and are also able to perform certain types of laser surgery in some states. In other countries patients are referred to other healthcare professionals, such as ophthalmologists, neurologists and general medical practitioners for further treatment or investigation.
Like most professions, the practice of optometry education and certification 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.
In the United States, optometry is currently regulated by state boards that determine their scope of practice, which may vary somewhat from state to state. Optometrists have been successful in expanding their practice scope to include medical therapy, including oral medications (such as antivirals, antibiotics, and oral steroids), topicals, and injections. In Oklahoma and Kentucky, optometrists can perform laser surgery.
Within the healthcare system, optometrists function as primary eye care providers who are especially experienced in fitting contact lenses and glasses prescriptions. Optometrists also have the ability to treat a wide variety of eye diseases through the administration of topical, oral and injectable medicines (depending on the state) although their scope is limited to the eye. Optometrists may be trained in some surgical techniques, including those for foreign body removal, corneal injury, eyelid & lacrimal disease, and others. In Oklahoma, the state optometry board also allows state-certified optometrists to perform surgeries limited to the anterior segment of the eye. In Kentucky, recent legislation permits Optometrists to perform a multitude of laser procedures.
In many cases optometrists and ophthalmologists work together in the treatment and management of patients with various eye conditions. Opticians generally dispense corrective eye wear, and in some cases also construct the corrective eye wear. The scope of practice in optometry varies as it is regulated by each state.