Frequently Asked Questions — Consumer Information

What is an optometrist?

An optometrist is a primary health care practitioner trained to diagnose, treat, and manage vision and eye health conditions. In addition to the use of pharmaceutical agents, optometrists prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, low vision aids, vision therapy, and perform minor surgical procedures. Doctors of optometry complete their four-year undergraduate studies before entering optometry school, which consists of a four-year curriculum and includes at least two years of clinical training. Following graduation from an accredited college of optometry, all optometrists must pass a battery of tests issued by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry, which includes clinical competency testing.

What is an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) trained in eye surgery and eye disease. They may prescribe glasses, contact lenses, medicine, and perform minor and major surgical procedures, such as cataract surgery and refractive surgery. Ophthalmologists have completed medical school and 4 years of post-graduate training. Some have subspecialized and completed 1-2 more years of post-graduate training.

What is an optician?

An optician is an eye wear provider trained to select, manufacture, and dispense spectacles, and sell or deliver contact lenses upon the written prescription of an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Opticians are not licensed by optometrists or ophthalmologists, nor are they licensed by a state agency.

Does my optometrist have to release my contact prescription to me?

Both federal and state law require an optometrist to release a patient’s contact lens prescription upon completion of the fitting, whether the patient requests it or not. 

Who owns my optometric record?

Wisconsin law requires all health care providers to release a patient's medical record upon request. Given the fact a patient’s vision and eye health records are part of their medical records, optometrists must release records to patients upon request.

Who should see an optometrist?

Since doctors of optometry are primary health care providers, patients can see an optometrist without referral from another health care professional. A vision condition (problem) is just one of the reason individuals seek the care of an optometrist. Another reason is to receive care for an eye health condition, which includes the treatment of an eye disease or removal of a foreign body from the eye.

Where are schools of optometry in the United States?

What is vision therapy?

Vision Therapy is a program of activities and exercises taught in every optometry school and used by specially trained optometrists that has been shown to be effective in improving reading difficulties and certain other vision conditions. While often used in a multidisciplinary approach in conjunction with educational therapies, Vision Therapy is often more effective than special education, tutoring, and speech and language therapy, and often succeeds where other treatments have had limited success. Every child with a reading disability should have an eye exam by an optometrist.

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