Eye Care Providers (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Optometrists are eye-care providers who have attended college and completed four years of training at an optometry school but have not attended a medical school. In optometry school, they receive education primarily about the eyes and do not receive a comprehensive education regarding the rest of the body and systemic disease processes. Optometrists receive a doctor of optometry (OD) degree.
Optometrists are licensed by the state to practice optometry. They can perform an eye examination and can determine the presence of vision-related problems. They can also prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Depending on the state in which you live, optometrists may be allowed to treat less complicated eye diseases and prescribe eyedrops for various conditions, but they are not trained or licensed to perform surgery.
Optometrists often work closely with ophthalmologists to provide integrated eye care for their mutual patients. Some optometrists work in the same practice as ophthalmologists, providing refractive (glasses and contact lenses) services, surgical screening, analysis of technical measurements prior to surgery, post-surgical care, emergency care, and other medical services. Other optometrists may work in an independent practice or in conjunction with a national eye-care chain. In many of these optometric practices, frequent referrals to ophthalmologists for surgical or medical care of serious illnesses may occur. Conversely, some ophthalmologists may refer patients to optometrists for primary eye care, refractions, contact lenses, glasses, lens prescriptions, and glasses fittings.
Opticians are trained in filling prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses. They may have received significant formal classroom instruction, but many receive on-the-job training. Depending on a particular state's regulations, opticians may or may not be licensed.
Opticians help in determining the best eyeglass frames to suit your needs. In addition, they ensure that eyeglass frames are adequately adjusted, and if necessary, they can also repair broken eyeglass frames. In some states, opticians may be licensed to fit contact lenses. Opticians often work closely within the same practice as an optometrist or ophthalmologist, or an optician may have an independent practice.
An ocularist is an eye-care provider who specializes in the fabrication and fitting of ocular prostheses for people who have lost an eye or eyes due to trauma or illness. The fabrication process for a custom-made eye typically includes taking an impression of the eye socket, shaping a plastic shell, painting the iris, and then fitting the ocular prostheses. These prosthetic devices are remarkably similar to the patient's own eye, usually matched to the remaining normal eye's colors and dimensions. With modern technology, the prosthetic eye can be created in three dimensions from acrylic plastic.
In addition to creating the prosthetic eye, ocularists show the patient how to care for and handle the prosthesis. Ocularists may develop their skills from various background disciplines, for example medical, optometry, dental, nursing, biology, medical arts, and illustration. If insurance coverage is available, most ocularist offices will assist in every possible way to obtain full insurance benefits for purchase of the prosthesis. However, it should be noted that the patient, or in the case of children, a parent or guardian is always responsible for payment. In the case of HMOs, it is always necessary to obtain a referral before work can begin on a new ocular prosthesis. The ocular prosthesis needs to be polished regularly in order to restore the acrylic finish and insure the health of the surrounding tissues. It is generally recommended that infants under 3 years of age wearing a prosthesis be seen every three months; patients under 9 years of age should be seen twice yearly, and all other patients should be seen at least once a year.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/27/2016
John D. Sheppard, MD, MMSc
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