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Health Care Providers: Optometrists

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What Is Optometry?

Optometry (ahp-TOM-uh-tree) is health care that focuses on finding and treating vision problems, including diagnosing and treating eye conditions and diseases. 

What Is an Optometrist?

An optometrist (ahp-TOM-uh-trist) is a doctor who examines eyes for problems, prescribes contact lenses and glasses and eye exercises, and diagnoses and treats eye diseases. In some U.S. states, they can do certain minor surgical procedures. 

Optometrists provide many of the same services as ophthalmologists. But ophthalmologists train in medical school and have a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree. They treat more serious eye problems and can do more surgical procedures.

Why Would Someone Need One?

Eye care services done by optometrists include:

What Is Their Training?

An optometrist's training typically includes:

  • 4 years of pre-medical study or a related scientific education at a college or university
  • 4 years of optometry school (an OD, doctor of optometry, degree)
  • passing the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam to become a licensed OD

Some optometrists specialize in kids' eye problems. They also might have expertise in a subspecialty area such as:

  • cornea and external disease: diseases of the cornea, sclera, conjunctiva, and eyelids
  • glaucoma: increased pressure in the eyeball, which can cause vision loss
  • neuro-ophthalmic disorders: diseases affecting the optic nerve and visual pathways, and vision problems from traumatic brain injury

Good to Know

Routine screenings and eye exams are recommended for all kids, from newborns to school-age kids and beyond. Kids of all ages — even babies — can wear glasses and contact lenses, if needed.

Date reviewed: September 2022