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History of Optometry Essay

Optometrist is the kind of doctor who makes sure that a person’s eyesight is functioning well and that there are no harmful diseases slowly emerging that may later on affect the sight of a person. They are in charge examining a patient’s eyes and gives prescription if it is needed. Like any other healthcare profession, an optometrist should and must have a certification which is a basic requirement before they practice their profession.

Optometry is a healthcare profession that is autonomous, educated, and regulated (licensed/registered), and optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system. (World Council of Optometry) However, there is a little knowledge about optometry and the emergence of optometrists. It is always associated with medicine, microbiology and physiology to name a few.

There is no exact date or specific person who explored on the topic. But in 1886, the term ‘optometrist’ was coined by Landolt which means, “Glass fitter” or someone who makes and prescribe eyeglasses. Prior to this, there are already persons who call themselves ‘opticians’. Prior to this, there was a distinction between “dispensing” and “refracting” opticians in the 19th century. The latter were later called optometrists. (David Goss, History of Optometry, Lecture Handout, Indiana University School of Optometry, 2003)

Before, the opticians are those who make glasses for a person but do not exactly know if that pair of glasses will fit the person or not. Or if that pair is the one that will help a person correct his eyesight. More, in the United States, the first school of optometry was founded sometime 1850-1900. Also, in 1940, the use of contact lenses was first established. The development of optometry in the US started way back 1600’s, where the first person to own glasses, Peter Brown who is a Pilgrim introduced the use of such device during the time when there are only a handful of people who knew about the said product.

It is said that Peter Brown, a Pilgrim, brought a pair of eyeglasses to North America in 1620 and thus became the first to wear glasses on this continent. There is little known about the use of spectacles in North America for more than another hundred years. (David Goss, History of Optometry, Lecture Handout, Indiana University School of Optometry, 2003) At the onset of the 17th century, there were a number of American optometrists who came to the country to practice the profession.

And since the Spectacles then were very expensive, this group of optometrists introduced better and more correct glasses that should be used by the people. Other notable early American optometrists were Benjamin Pike, who came to the US in the early 1800s, and James Prentice, who came to the US in 1847. They both were trained in optics in England, and they both trained their sons. James’ son, Charles Prentice, would have an important role in the development of American optometry. (David Goss, History of Optometry, Lecture Handout, Indiana University School of Optometry, 2003)

On the other hand, not all diseases that concern the eye can be cured by an optometrist. Eyesight disease such as macular degeneration or the breakdown of a certain part of the retina to be able to see things clearly, cannot be treated by an optometrist. Rather, the ophthalmologist is the one responsible for its cure. Another is the Diabetic Retinopathy which is sometimes an indication for having diabetes. It is a kind of illness where the retina is being blocked by masses of blood clots that cause irregularities in a person’s eyesight.

The most well-known disease that concerns the eye is the cataract – which the optometrist cannot cure as well. It is the work of the ophthalmologist to perform. They are the ones who prescribe supplements, vitamins and other needed medication to the patient. Sometimes, they also perform the surgery to remove the cataract. Among the many diseases that concern the eye, these are the few which is directly handled not by an optometrist but an ophthalmologist. Other diseases such as glaucoma, near/far sightedness can be treated by either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.


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