The role of optometrists in our overall health care

Optometrists are independent primary health care providers that are on the front line of vision health. Among the main roles of optometrists are:


• Examination, diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of disorders, problems and diseases of the visual system, as well as associated structures.

• Diagnosing the ocular manifestation of various systematic conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and complications brought about by aging.

• Prescription of medication to treat eye diseases.

• Prescription and fitting of eyeglasses, contact lenses and safety eyewear, as well as other subnormal vision devices.

• Provide low vision rehabilitation and vision therapy.

• Work alongside other healthcare providers to provide quality health care to patients.

• Educate patients on vision health and lifestyle choices that work to protect and enhance visual health.

• Carry out research and advancement in the various fields of visual sciences.

Even though optometrists are mainly concerned with visual health, their role in the overall healthcare sector is evolving. This is mainly attributed to the expanded scope of the practice.

Evolving Role of Optometrists

Over the years, optometrists have been mainly concerned with diagnosing and treating eye conditions, including retinal disorders, cataracts, and glaucoma. However, their role in the overall health care system is expanding.

Optometrists can now handle a broader range of ocular conditions, as well as early disease detection for certain serious conditions. For example, retinal imaging has experienced immense growth over the last 20 years. Research in this field has helped in the early detection of diabetic retinopathy.

Also, retinal imaging has helped optometrists work even closer with physicians and insurers in helping identify chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Optic nerve assessment is used to uncover brain conditions and tumors.

As with any other medical profession, optometry is regulated. For one to become an optometrist, one has to complete a Bachelor’s Degree usually in Science, followed by a Doctor of Optometry degree, one that takes four years.

Eye Exams and Chronic conditions

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of every 2 people suffers from a chronic condition. Among these conditions are diabetes, LDL cholesterol, cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure. Chronic eye diseases are also included on the list. These include cataracts and glaucoma. If left undiagnosed, these diseases could lead to vision loss.

When it comes to identifying chronic conditions, optometrists play a huge role. A comprehensive eye exam can reveal underlying chronic conditions at an early stage, a big plus to the management and treatment of these conditions. Eye care professionals have become a major part of the overall health care system, working closely with other healthcare professionals.

Eye Exams and Brain Tumors

Brain tumors present various symptoms. It may be that persistent headache that never goes away or feeling dizzy constantly. While most people don’t consider these to be symptoms of a serious problem, these symptoms should be taken seriously.

Through a thorough eye exam, an optometrist can easily identify a growth occurring within the region of the optic nerve. This could indicate a brain tumor. The tumor presses against the optic nerve, causing the nerve to become pale colored. Optic nerve assessment a great tool in identifying and searching for such clues.

In today’s healthcare system, the role of optometrists cannot be stressed enough. They have grown over the years to become a critical part of the system. They stand as the first line of defense against serious and chronic health conditions.