Optometrists are doctors of optometry (OD) who specialize in the practice of primary eye care.
Like ophthalmologists who attend a four-year post-college medical school, optometrists must attend a four-year post-college optometry school.
Optometrists take two years of general medical courses (as do ophthalmologists in medical school), followed then by two years of intense specialization courses in the field of optometry.
Upon graduation from optometry school, optometrists must then pass several national board exams and a North Carolina board exam.
Only then can an optometrist take the grueling North Carolina license test which allows an optometrist to be properly licensed to practice optometry in North Carolina.
Optometry and ophthalmology are similar in many ways, and in North Carolina, optometrists can do everything that an ophthalmologist can do except surgery.
In fact, optometrists can diagnose and treat most eye diseases, perform non-invasive procedures such as foreign body removal, prescribe all medications, give prescriptions for different types of eyeglasses and monthly contacts made of unique silicon material.
Optometrists are generally thought of as the primary care doctors for eye care (similar to a family doctor or general practitioner). Ophthalmologists are thought of as secondary/tertiary care doctors who handle advanced eye diseases and conditions as well as performing surgery (including laser surgery).
Because the education for optometrists is more of a concentration in optics and disease diagnosis and management, optometrists are very well trained to provide the best refractions for lenses of all types.
It is generally true that optometrists provide the best refractions because of their intense education and training in this field.
For this reason, optometrists are your best first-line of defense for having the best and clearest possible vision, while wearing color-blending contact lenses for a natural look.
During a normal thorough comprehensive refraction exam, an optometrist will perform the following steps:
- Check your current vision with an auto-refractor or a phoropter (the device that you look through when you look at the eye chart).
This is used to verify your current vision and to compare it to your current lenses and prescription, if applicable. At AOC, we use only the best phoropter. Ours is computer automated, allowing the optometrist to obtain the most accurate refractions possible.
- Dilate your eyes with eye drops.
The purpose of this step is to prevent your pupils (the center dark part of your eye) from closing when the doctor looks into them with a light to see inside of your eyes.
This is done to check your retinas, the central vision part of the retina (the macula), as well as the optic nerve, for any conditions or abnormalities.
These retinal photos become a permanent part of your record, thus also providing a history of your eye health so that future changes in your eyes can be easily detected and documented.