What is an Optometrist

stock-photo-19743032-vision-medical-optometrist-equipmentAn Optometrist or Optometric Physicians are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures as well as diagnose related systemic conditions.

Following an undergraduate degree and four-year doctorate program and National Board exams, the Tennessee State Board of Examiners in Optometry licenses optometric physicians in the Tennessee. The rules of the Tennessee Board of Optometry require each licensee to complete thirty (30) hours of approved continuing education (CE) during the two (2) calendar years (January 1 - December 31) that precede the licensure renewal year. All therapeutically certified optometrist who are allowed to use pharmaceutical agents by injection must maintain current certification for basic life support on an annual basis.

Optometric physicians examine the internal and external structure of the eyes to diagnose eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disorders; complications of systemic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes; and vision conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. Optometric physicians test to determine the patient's ability to focus and coordinate the eyes, and to judge depth and see colors accurately.

They prescribe eyewear, contact lenses, low vision aids, vision therapy and medicines to treat eye diseases as well as perform certain surgical procedures.

As primary eye care providers, optometric physicians are an integral part of the health care team and an entry point into the health care system. They are skilled in the co-management of care that affects the eye health and vision of their patients and an excellent source of referral to other health care professionals.

*Optometric Physicians are also referred to as Doctors of Optometry and Optometrists.

Scope of Practice

  • Optometric physicians specialize in comprehensive dilated eye examinations to improve visual disorders through prescriptions for corrective spectacle lenses and contact lenses, this also includes rehabilitative therapy for ocular motor dysfunction (amblyopia, eye coordination & strabismus). Optometric physicians are trained in prescribing specialized adaptive vision aids for subnormal vision, or loss of vision from diseases such as macular degeneration and stroke.
  • Optometric physicians detect, diagnose and treat eye diseases. These diseases include infections (viral and bacterial), ocular allergies and ocular inflammations. They manage and treat almost all diseases of the eye and eyelids. They also manage cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Optometric physicians treat eye diseases with any indicated systemic and/or topical medications and prescribe supportive pain medications schedule II, II-N, III,III-N, IV & V to improve overall health and vision capabilities. Medications may be administered in the form of an eye drop/ointment, topical cream, oral pill/liquid or injection.
  • Optometric physicians treat eye injuries including removal of foreign objects in the eye and eyelid. They routinely perform minor surgical procedures to treat cysts, chalazia, trichiasis, disorders of the lacrimal system and dry eye.
  • In Tennessee, optometric physicians provide pre-operative and post-operative treatment for many eye surgeries in coordination with ophthalmologists.
  • Developing and maintaining professional referral relationships with family practitioners, internists, endocrinologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists and other medical specialties to ensure that eye health is maintained in concert with overall physical health and wellness.
  • The "Scope of Practice" is derived from this definition. The Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians believes that many in the general public may not be aware of an optometrist's extensive role is in eye health care.