Can Optometrists Treat Glaucoma?

Most optometrists and glaucoma specialists are trained to diagnose and treat glaucoma. As part of a comprehensive eye exam, optometrists measure eye pressure and examine the optic nerve. The practice of optometry varies, but 49 states in the US now allow optometrists to provide treatment for glaucoma. Opticians make eyeglasses and fit frames, while optometrists deal with eyeglasses and medical eye problems, but do not perform laser procedures or surgery.

Board-certified ophthalmologists have passed rigorous tests on eye diseases and surgeries, while members of the American Glaucoma Society have conducted one or more years of special education on glaucoma and are recognized experts. Academic glaucoma specialists teach, research, and only care for patients with glaucoma. A complete eye exam can determine if you have glaucoma or another condition. After diagnosis, your optometrist can recommend a specialized treatment plan.

Some patients do not have glaucoma, but rather that they do not do well on visual field tests or have large but healthy optic nerves. Optometrists in Colorado can now offer their patients with glaucoma more treatment options in addition to standard eye drops, such as SLT. Optometrists who feel uncomfortable treating patients with glaucoma on their own may choose to treat these patients with an eye doctor. Most optometrists recognize that glaucoma can be a blinding disease and will refer patients when they approach those limits.

Optometrists and glaucoma specialists can develop and maintain a healthy working relationship if both make the most of their training and experience. A multifaceted health bill was enacted that allows optometrists to prescribe topical medications for the treatment of glaucoma and have the authority to prescribe oral anti-infectives. The most important step in designating a patient as suspected of glaucoma or as a patient with glaucoma optic neuropathy is to perform a detailed stereoscopic evaluation of the optic nerve head. It was found that patients who received SLT were within their target pressure more often than those treated with eye drops (93% compared to what during their 4-year study).

In addition, the Texas Outreach Bill allows the state's optometrists to prescribe any oral medication that is used to treat eye conditions. CT scans of the macula and optic nerve are crucial for evaluating the structure of the neural and connective tissues affected by glaucoma. Efficiency in eye care matters as resources dwindle and the number of patients with glaucoma increases. If you have any symptoms of glaucoma or need a complete eye exam, book an appointment with your optometrist.

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