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What Training does a Optometrist Require?

Optometry is a health care profession concerned with the health of the eyes and related structures, as well as vision, visual systems, and vision information processing in humans. Optometrists are licensed medical professionals trained to prescribe and fit lenses to improve vision, and to diagnose and treat various eye diseases. In the United States and Canada optometrists are considered Doctors of Optometry and are held to the same legal standards as any physician.  In all U.S. states optometrists are licensed to diagnose and treat diseases of the eye through topical diagnostic and therapeutic drugs and oral drugs in 47/50 states.  Doctors of Optometry are also able to perform certain types of laser surgery in some states.

Doctors of Optometry in the United States are currently regulated by state boards that determine their scope of practice, which may vary drastically from state to state. Within the healthcare system, optometrists function as primary eye care providers who are especially experienced in fitting contact lenses and glasses prescriptions.

Optometrists have expanded their practice scope to include:

-Oral medications (such as antivirals, antibiotics, oral steroids and pain medications

-Topical medications such as prescription eye drops to treat glaucoma or red eye for example.

-Injectable medications.

Optometrists may also be trained in some surgical techniques, including those for foreign body removal, corneal injury, eyelid & lacrimal disease, removal of "lumps and bumps" around the eyes.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) and the American Optometric Society (AOS) represent optometrists nationally in the USA. Prior to admittance into optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor’s degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students covers a variety of health, science and mathematics courses. These courses include: four semesters of chemistry to include organic and biochemistry, two semesters of physics and biology, as well as one semester of calculus, statistics, physiology, anatomy, microbiology, and psychology. Additional requirements are imposed by specific institutions. Once completing these courses, admission to an optometry doctorate program requires that candidates score well on the O.A.T., Optometry Admission Tests. There are currently 20 optometry schools in the US, and admission into these schools is highly competitive.


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Optometrists are required to complete a four-year postgraduate degree program to earn their Doctor of Optometry (O.D. - Oculus Doctor) titles. The four-year program includes classroom and clinical training in geometric, physical, physiological and ophthalmic optics, ocular anatomy, ocular disease, ocular pharmacology, neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the vision system, binocular vision, color, form, space, movement and vision perception, design and modification of the visual environment, and vision performance and vision screening. In addition, an optometric education also includes a thorough study of human anatomy, systemic diseases, general pharmacology, general pathology, microbiology, sensory and perceptual psychology, biochemistry, statistics and epidemiology. There are three new colleges of optometry (Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry, University of the Incarnate Word School of Optometry, Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry) that have received the pre-accreditation status of preliminary approval from the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE). Programs with "Preliminary Approval" have shown that they are developing within the ACOE's standards. The programs have approval to begin recruiting and admitting students, and to begin offering the program.

Upon completion of an accredited program in optometry, graduates hold the Doctor of Optometry degree. Optometrists must then pass a national examination administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO). The three-part exam includes basic science, clinical science and patient care. Some optometrists go on to complete one to two year residencies with training in a specific sub-specialty such as pediatric eye care, geriatric eye care, specialty contact lens, ocular disease or neuro-optometry. All optometrists are required to fulfill continuing education requirements to stay current regarding the latest standards of care.

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