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optometry

optometry (meaning measurement of sight) is the science of measuring visual acuity to determine refractive errors of the eyes, and prescribing and fitting appropriate corrective lenses (in spectacles or as contact lenses). The term ‘optometrist’, imported from the US, has virtually displaced the original word ‘optician’ in the UK.

Optometrists also have to deal with patients who have poor vision for whatever reason, prescribing special lenses or low-vision aids, which help them to lead independent lives. This is essential work in a world increasingly dominated by the visual image in television, films, advertising, and the Internet.

Certain occupations require legally-defined minimum acuity levels, particularly those concerned with flying, or driving trains, cars, heavy goods vehicles, buses — or any public service vehicle. In some cases, public service drivers with refractive errors are obliged to wear glasses, not contact lenses, so that an inspector can tell at once if corrective lenses are in use.

When the National Health Service (NHS) was inaugurated in Britain in 1948, the Supplementary Ophthalmic Service (SOS) was also started, with the intention that eventually all the sight testing would be done in hospitals. In 1958 the Opticians Act established the General Optical Council (GOC), which included a few doctors but was not part of the NHS. The GOC is the statutory body for opticians/ optometrists, with regulatory functions concerning approval of training courses, qualifications, registration, and discipline, similar to those of the General Medical Council for doctors. By 1968 it was apparent that the SOS would never be integrated with the NHS as previously hoped, and the General Ophthalmic Service (GOS) replaced the SOS. Family doctor committees now control the provision of relevant services by dentists, pharmacists, local general practitioners, and the GOS.

Optometry courses lasting three years are taught in eight university departments and schools in the UK. Subjects taught for the BSc degree include anatomy, physiology, visual optics and perception, binocular vision, occupational optics and lighting, clinical practice, pharmacology, microbiology, ocular disease, communication skills, and professional and legal matters. After a pre-registration year and pre-qualifying examination, the student must become a member of the College of Optometrists, the professional body, to start in practice.

The vast majority of sight tests are performed by optometrists. These include measurement of visual acuity and refraction, visual field screening, measuring intra-ocular pressure, and ophthalmoscopy (viewing the interior of the eye with an ophthalmoscope), as and when required. It is a matter of political decision as to which groups of patients may be entitled to a free sight test.

In some areas of the UK, special, shared care clinics to deal with the visual problems of diabetes and glaucoma have been set up to provide the optometric expertise required for hospitals and general practices. Simple consideration of the fact that there are approximately ten times as many optometrists as consultant ophthalmologists in this country, combined with increasing prevalence of these diseases, confirms the need.

Finally, a small but growing number of optometrists forsake the commercial world and work in university departments of visual science, gaining higher degrees and doing valuable research on vision, the optics of the eye, contact lens design, and related topics.

Peter Fells


See also eyes; refractive errors.

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optometry

optometry (ŏptŏm´ətrē), eye-care specialty concerned with eye examination, determination of visual abilities, diagnosis of eye diseases and conditions, and the prescription of lenses and other corrective measures. In most states optometrists may prescribe drugs for the treatment of eye diseases. The principal concern of early optometrists was the prescription of corrective lenses for defects of vision due to refractive error. Modern optometry also includes the fitting of contact lenses and of telescopic eyeglasses as an aid to the near-blind, as well as the field of orthoptics, i.e., the practice of strengthening the eye muscles and improving their coordination by eye exercises. Prescriptions for corrective lenses provided by an optometrist are often brought to an optician, who grinds and fits the lenses.

The word optometry came into use in 1904 with the organization of the American Optometric Association. Until this time people bought eyeglasses from traveling vendors whose activities were not supervised. With the passage of optometry laws, this method of dispensing glasses was prohibited. Optometrists must now fulfill certain educational requirements and be examined and licensed by the state. Some of the schools of optometry in the United States are affiliated with colleges or universities. Optometry is a specialty requiring a four-year postgraduate professional degree. See also ophthalmology).

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"optometry." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"optometry." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/optometry

optometry

op·tom·e·try / äpˈtämitrē/ • n. the practice or profession of examining the eyes for visual defects and prescribing corrective lenses. DERIVATIVES: op·to·met·ric / ˌäptəˈmetrik/ adj.

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optometry

optometry Testing of vision in order to prescribe corrective eyewear, such as spectacles or contact lenses. It is distinct from ophthalmology.

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optometry

optometry (op-tom-itri) n. the practice of testing the visual acuity of eyes and prescribing lenses to correct defects of vision.

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optometry

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"optometry." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/optometry