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The Vision of Optometry

Have you watched TV with a baby boomer lately? Were they squinting? Are the elders in your family having trouble reading the voting numbers on American Idol or foreign film subtitles?

In the coming years, optometrists are going to be in demand -- big time.

Like everyone else, the baby boomers are getting older. And some of them are starting to experience the effects of aging. As people age, they often start to have problems with their vision. How can they correct these vision problems? Enter the optometrist.

Jeffrey Weaver is the associate director of the American Optometric Association in St. Louis, Missouri. He says that the aging population will impact the demand for optometrists.

"Everyone over about the age of 45 has the diagnosis of presbyopia, a condition of reduced ability to focus the eyes to near objects. This is easily corrected by spectacles," he says.

"The current number of optometrists is adequate to meet the current need based on the number of examinations delivered annually [in the U.S.].

"Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans who lack appropriate care, but may be unaware of this fact. Many eye and vision conditions do not have symptoms until they are very advanced (such as glaucoma or diabetes), or have symptoms not directly attributed to the eyes (such as headaches).

"As the population ages, the demand for eye care will increase," he says.

Optometry has also been impacted by new technologies in eye care. Today's optometrists can manage and treat more conditions than the optometrists of the past.

Laser surgery is a good example. Optometrists provide most of the pre- and post-surgical care for people who have laser surgery to improve their vision. Not long ago, the only ways to improve your vision were through eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Kathleen M. Kinney is an optometric physician who offers vision therapy. "Vision therapy is a series of vision procedures designed to help patients develop or improve fundamental visual skills and abilities, which changes how a patient processes or interprets visual information," she says. "Vision therapy applies to patients of all ages."

Vision therapy is another area of optometry that is expected to increase in demand.

"There are many doctors doing vision therapy, but not nearly enough to meet the demands of the public," says Kinney.

For example, an estimated 25 percent of children have vision problems, which can affect learning. Many adults also have vision problems, which can affect their job performance. Some have suffered traumatic brain injury and have resulting vision problems.

"As public awareness about vision problems and vision therapy continues to increase, so will the demand for doctors specializing in this area," Kinney says.

Today, choosing optometry as a career path can give you the opportunity to work in an expanding field. New optometrists will be able to practice in a variety of specialties, such as pediatrics, geriatrics and vision therapy. The new optometrists will practice in diverse settings and locations.


American Academy of Optometry
Promotes vision care

Review of Optometry
A treasure trove of information for people who want to practice optometry

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