Vision is a learned skill. Most people develop their visual skills during the first twelve years of life. These skills are shaped by health, one’s personal experience and the environment.
Because these visual skills are related to eye movement and brain function, they can be learned at any age. This is why many athletes use vision therapy; it’s a method of training their eye muscles and their brain to work more efficiently, which improves their performance.
Understanding the different types of eye doctors will help you understand the different specialties of eye care:
Optometrist – O.D.Doctors of optometry (O.D.s) are the primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.
An optometrist completes a pre-professional undergraduate education at a college or university and then completes four years of professional education at a college of optometry. Upon graduating, an optometrist can complete an optional one year residency for additional training in a specific area of practice.
For a complete description, visit the American Optometric Association’s website.
Developmental Optometrist – O.D.A developmental optometrist treats functional vision problems, including difficulties with binocular vision, eye movements and depth perception, as well as visual deficits following brain injuries. These optometrists are skilled in the use of lenses, prisms and optometric vision therapy and provide vision care based on the principle that vision can be developed and changed.**
Ophthalmologist – M.D. An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who receives residency training and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease. In general, ophthalmologists use medical and surgical methods to treat eye diseases and vision disorders.
Optician:A licensed technician who makes and dispenses eyeglasses according to prescriptions from optometrists and ophthalmologists.
A large percentage of students don’t have visual problems, and conducting these tests on every child would be costly. It’s why typical screenings are limited in scope to reading letters on a distance eye chart, a test that does not detect vision-based learning problems.
Visual processing or developmental vision problems can’t be detected unless your optometrist specifically tests for them. In the absence of these symptoms, these tests are typically not incorporated into the exam. In the presence of these symptoms, optometrists may conduct more extensive tests and/or refer patients to the Vision Therapy Center.
A functional vision exam generally takes 60 – 90 minutes and includes a series of tests based on a patient’s individual needs. We’ll first review the patient’s health history, particularly in regard to the eyes. The functional vision examination is then performed, and covers skills such as fixation, tracking, accommodation, and eye teaming.
Take the Vision Quiz to see if you have the common symptoms.
*American Optometric Association
**Fixing My Gaze,by Dr. Susan Barry