What does an optometrist do?

The role of the optometrist in the medical arena – as well as the wider community – is often poorly understood.

An optometrist is a primary eye care practitioner – much like a GP – specialising solely in eyes.

An optometrist will have completed a 4 or 5-year university degree and often have additional training in their area of interest (e.g. contact lenses, ocular pathology, or vision training).

The optometrist’s role is to provide a comprehensive eye test to determine firstly whether you can see to your maximum capability. To this end, they will prescribe corrective lenses in the form of glasses or contact lenses to provide the clearest and most comfortable vision.

They will also examine your eyes for a wide range of eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataract.

Therapeutically-endorsed optometrists can not only diagnose, but also prescribe the appropriate therapy to treat a wide range of eye diseases, including red eyes, conjunctivitis, glaucoma, dry eyes, blepharitis, allergy and more.

Confused about who to see for an eye test?

There are many types of eye-care practitioners, which can be very confusing for the general public. What is clear though, is that you should start with an eye test from an optometrist, and be guided by them on what you need to do next.

This might mean eye glasses for distance vision, reading vision or both. Task glasses may be prescribed to relieve eye strain and blue blockers to protect the eyes from harmful blue light emissions from digital screens.

Sometimes, although glasses are not required and your vision seems normal, you could have the early stages of a serious eye disease such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.

An optometrist is trained not only to diagnose and often treat the eye condition, but also be able to refer you to an eye surgeon (called an ophthalmologist) if surgical intervention is required.

Can all optometrists treat eye conditions?

All qualified optometrists can examine your eyes, diagnose eye disease, and manage conditions that don’t require prescription-only eye drops, including meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis, mild dry eye and contact lens discomfort.

Therapeutically-qualified optometrists have additional training in the treatment and management of many eye diseases through the use of prescription-only eye drops. These diseases include glaucoma, moderate to severe dry eye, inflammation (of the various ocular structures) and allergy.

If you develop a red eye, a therapeutically-endorsed optometrist is the best person to see first. In most cases, they will be able to manage the condition themselves. Where further expertise or surgical treatment is required, they will refer you to the appropriate ophthalmologist.

Unfortunately, the optometrist is often bypassed in favour of the general practitioner, who has little equipment available for close examination of the eyes, or the ophthalmologist, who usually specialises in surgery a particular field and is not the best choice for a comprehensive eye examination.

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This website is published by The Eye Practice optometrists located in Sydney CBD. They are recognised by their peers as leaders in eye care. If you have an eye-related question, do not hesitate to ask. We regularly respond to frequently asked questions by writing an article about the eye condition.