Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Throughout all the states in the U.S., optometrists are licensed to provide primary eye care services, including eye examinations and diagnosis of eye diseases. In certain states, optometrists are allowed to medically treat eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal diseases and, in certain states in the U.S., to treat them medically. In addition, in certain states, optometrists may also perform minor surgical procedures such as the removal of foreign bodies. Over the years, all states have expanded their laws regarding the allowable scope of optometric practice to allow optometrists to perform functions that the specific state deems them able to do, pursuant to their education and training. Currently some states allow optometrists to use and prescribe oral medication. The federal government has allowed optometrists to bill through the Medicare system and receive payment from Health and Human Services (HHS). Similar to ophthalmologists, there are no federal standards for optometrists that address their qualifications or limit of practice. Under the U.S. Constitution, those standards are reserved for the individual states. There are national optometric professional organizations and societies, the most important being the American Optometric Association. There are also State Societies of Optometry in every state.

Ophthalmologists often work closely with optometrists to provide integrated eye care for their mutual patients. Some optometrists work in the same practice as ophthalmologists, providing refractive (glasses and contact lenses) services, surgical screening, analysis of technical measurements prior to surgery, postsurgical care, emergency care, and other medical services. Other optometrists may work in an independent practice or in conjunction with a national eye care chain. In many of these optometric practices, frequent referrals to ophthalmologists for surgical or medical care of serious illnesses may occur. Conversely, some ophthalmologists may refer patients to optometrists for primary eye care, refractions, contact lenses, prescription eyeglass lenses, glasses fittings, and postsurgical care.

Last Editorial Review: 5/20/2013