The Oregon Board of Optometry receives many questions concerning eye health care and the role of the three "o's", optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians.
What is the difference between an optometrist, ophthalmologist, and optician?
An optometrist (also called doctor of optometry or optometric physician in Oregon), is a health care practitioner trained to diagnose signs of ocular, neurological and systemic health problems and treat vision disorders. An optometrist must be certified to use, administer and prescribe topical and nontopical therapeutic pharmaceutical agents by the Oregon Board of Optometry, to treat eye diseases and injuries, and perform other procedures such as foreign body removal. All optometrists may prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
An opthalmologist is a medical doctor trained in eye surgery and eye disease. Ophthalmologists may prescribe glasses, contact lenses, drugs, and perform eye surgery such as cataract surgery. In Oregon, ophthalmologists are licensed by the Oregon Medical Board.
An optician is an eye wear provider trained to select, manufacture, and dispense spectacles and sell or deliver contact lenses upon a written prescription by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Opticians are not licensed or regulated in Oregon.
What education and training is required to be an optometrist?
The academic credentials of students entering a college of optometry are the same as other health professions. Optometrists generally complete a four year bachelors degree and a minimum of another four years of optometry college curriculum, earning a doctorate of optometry. National Board examinations and an Oregon jurisprudence examination must be successfully taken in order to be eligible for licensure as an optometrist in Oregon.
Do optometrists have competency requirements?
Oregon administrative rules require that optometrists complete a minimum of 18 hours of continuing optometric education every year. Of those 18 hours, 9 must relate to the treatment and management of ocular disease. Each licensee must also complete a minimum of 1 hour in optometric ethics or Oregon Optometry Law and Administrative Rules. The ethics or law course must be completed at least every other year. License renewal is based upon the fulfillment of these requirements.
What do the letters mean in the optometric physician's license number?
The minimum therapeutic certification requirement for Active-status licensed optometric physicians is "AT" - or advanced therapeutic certification. Optometrists who have "AT" certification are qualified to prescribe topical and oral, or nontopical, pharmaceutical agents to treat conditions relating to the eye and eye health. The designation "ATI" appears with the license numbers of those doctors who have qualified to use, prescribe and administer topical and non-topical pharmaceutical agents both orally and by injection. The injection endorsement is not required for licensure in Oregon.
What is a comprehensive eye-health examination?
Optometrists are required to perform certain testing procedures to assure that the eyes are free from disease or other disorder and are properly functioning visually. These tests include visual acuity, muscle function, testing for glaucoma, and any other procedures the optometrist determines necessary to assess the condition of the eyes.
Does the optometrist have to release the prescription to me?
Optometrists are required by Oregon law to immediately release the appropriate written prescription upon completion of the necessary visual examination or examinations.
For glasses: This means immediately upon completion of the examination, or when a doctor would provide glasses without additional examination.
For contact lens: This means when the optometrist would provide contact lenses without additional examination. A reasonable and clinically-prudent trial fitting period would normally be necessary before the optometrist can arrive at the appropriate contact lens prescription.
A patient is not required to purchase corrective eye wear from their physician. A prescription must be written in such a manner that it may be filled by any seller of eye wear.
How long is a prescription valid?
There is no specific length of time required for a prescription to be valid by either Oregon Law or Oregon Administrative Rules. A prescription that is written by an optometrist must include the patient's name and examination date, the doctor's name and license number, practice location address and phone numbers, the parameters of the corrective lenses, and a reasonable and clinically-prudent expiration date. A contact lens prescription may also include the maximum number of refills that may be dispensed before the prescription is expired.
It is not unusual for a prescription for glasses to be written with an expiration date that is 2 years after the date of the examination. Contact lens prescriptions are usually written with a 1-year expiration date. Because contact lenses are worn directly on the eye, it is important for a patient's eye health to be monitored more frequently when he or she wears contact lenses than when only glasses are worn.
Why isn't the PD (pupilary distance) included on my eyeglass prescription?
The Board often receives requests from patients for pupillary distances on prescriptions (PD). Patients often feel like the PD measurement should be included in their prescription. OAR 852-020-0029 outlines the prescription content requirements for spectacles and contact lenses. PD isn't included in the prescription requirements for spectacles/glasses.
After a recent patient formal request, the Board discussed the PD measurement requirement for eye glass prescriptions at their February 12, 2021 meeting.
The Board member consensus was that the pupillary distance (PD) is a measurement usually performed by a well-trained optician; it's not within the scope of the practice of optometry. The PD also depends on the type of frame and the use of the eye glasses—will the glasses be primarily for computer use, reading up close or to drive? The use of the glasses affects the PD measurement.
This question often comes up when patients want to order online. If you're using an online retailer, online retailers often have guidance for measuring the PD. PD measurement is a service your local optical shop provides in their array of services to ensure their patients have fully functional eye wear.