What's a doctor of optometry?

Doctors of optometry, the leaders in primary eye health care, help patients and their families take the first step toward healthier eyes and healthier bodies. If a disease or other conditions are detected, doctors of optometry can help navigate patients to the right prevention plans or the next steps in official diagnosis and treatment.
Doctor of Optometry

A colorful sunset. A familiar face. The beauty of ordinary objects all around us.

Every waking minute, your eyes are working hard to see the world around us—that’s why healthy vision is so important. However, according to AOA’s annual American Eye-Q® survey:

  • 4 in 10 Americans don’t know how to take good care of their eyes.
  • A quarter of Americans don’t think they need an eye exam if their vision is clear—and nearly half of millennials agree.
  • Half of Americans (52%) don’t know that an eye disease diagnosis is part of a standard comprehensive eye exam.

The importance of comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor is about more than blurry vision. Vision changes over time and more than 16 million Americans struggle with undiagnosed or untreated vision impairments , which a comprehensive eye exam could have detected. Each day, America’s primary eye health care providers examine asymptomatic patients who come in for comprehensive eye examinations, only to then diagnose them with serious eye and health issues ranging from glaucoma and macular degeneration to STDs, brain tumors and other conditions.

What is a doctor of optometry/optometrist?

Doctors of optometry (O.D.s/optometrists), America’s primary eye health care providers, are the frontline of eye and vision care. Doctors of optometry are essential health care providers and are recognized as physicians under Medicare. They examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, they play a major role in an individual’s overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases, and diagnosing, treating and managing ocular manifestations of those diseases, and providing vaccinations.

Doctors of optometry:

  • Prescribe medications, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, spectacle lenses, contact lenses and perform certain surgical procedures.
  • Counsel patients regarding surgical and non-surgical options that meet their visual needs related to their occupations, avocations and lifestyle.
  • Complete pre-professional undergraduate education in a college or university and four years of professional education at a college of optometry, leading to the doctor of optometry (O.D.) degree. Many doctors of optometry complete an additional residency in a specific area of practice.

More than 30,000 doctors of optometry nationwide are available to provide high-quality eye health and vision care services. Make your health a priority by scheduling an appointment with a local AOA doctor today!

Comprehensive eye exam

What is a comprehensive eye exam?

A comprehensive eye exam conducted by a doctor of optometry determines the eye and vision health of a patient. During the exam, the doctor checks not only visual acuity through refraction but also the health of your eyes, eye tissue and other diseases. Each patient's symptoms, along with the doctor of optometry’s professional judgment, will determine what tests are conducted.  

Why is it important to get comprehensive eye exams with a doctor of optometry?

An in-person, comprehensive eye exam with a doctor of optometry is the medically recognized standard to assure precise and healthy vision, identify and treat diseases, such as glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. In addition, eye exams safeguard overall health by enabling the doctor to detect more than 270 serious health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and cancers. In fact, in 2018 alone, doctors of optometry identified signs of diabetes in more than 301,000 patients who did not know they had the condition. In-person, comprehensive eye exams are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve vision and overall health.

What is the difference between a comprehensive eye exam and a vision screening?

Current vision screening methods cannot be relied on to effectively identify individuals who need vision care. These types of screenings are offered at schools, pediatrician offices or at the DMV. While they may uncover some vision problems, they can miss more than they find. In some cases, vision screenings can give a false sense of security for those individuals who "pass" the screening and inhibit the early diagnosis of vision problems. These people are then less likely to receive treatment for their vision problem and it could become worse.

A comprehensive eye exam includes a range of tests in order to do a complete evaluation of the health of your eyes and your vision. Not only can your doctor of optometry assess your eye health, they can identify symptoms of conditions elsewhere in the body like brain tumors, aneurysms, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Learn more about the limitations of vision screenings.

Find a Doctor of Optometry

Find a Doctor of Optometry