Understanding the role of optometrists

How medical professionals can work with optometrists

The right patient care requires the right experts. Optometrists (doctors of optometry) are highly trained professionals who can work with other healthcare professionals like general practitioners, nurses and pediatricians to ensure patients receive the best care possible. When healthcare professionals refer patients to optometrists, it drives better health outcomes for Albertans of all ages.

Like other health care professionals, optometrists go through specialized education before treating patients. They complete a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree from an accredited university.

Alberta optometrists are regulated under the Health Professions Act. When you refer a patient to an optometrist, you can be confident they will receive quality care.

How optometrists help patients

Optometrists are experts who play an important role in patients’ vision, eye health, and their overall health, too.  They are trained to:

  • Treat, manage and correct disorders and diseases of the visual system, the eye and its associated structures.
  • Recognize and detect related systemic conditions and manage ocular manifestations.
  • Diagnose, treat and manage binocular and perceptual vision disorders.
  • Prescribe any topical or oral Schedule 1 drug in the context of eye care.
  • Removal of superficial foreign bodies from the eye in or below the surface of the cornea.
  • Independent management of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

Optometrists provide primary eye care.

Comprehensive eye exams

During an eye exam, the optometrist examines the tissues and structures inside the eye, looking for eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration, as well as tears in the retina, bleeding and tumours.

They are also looking for early signs of serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases during an exam.

Without early detection and proper treatment, many eye diseases can cause unnecessary and possible permanent loss of vision.

The comprehensive eye exam includes a series of tests. There is much more to an eye exam than checking how well a person can see and determining the eye glass prescription (refraction).

Insured services funded by Alberta Health

Alberta Health covers:

  • Routine children and seniors comprehensive eye exams – 18 and under and 65+.
  • Medically necessary/urgent care for acute onset disturbances to vision; red eye, infection, foreign body removal; management of chronic eye disease (glaucoma, macular degeneration, inflammatory conditions).
  • Monitoring of patients on certain systemic medications (plaquenil, tamoxifen).
  • Post-operative medical eye surgery visits.

Referring patients

A patient does not need a referral, but there are times when a referral form helps guide the patient with their eye care plan.

Eye health referral forms make it easy for your patients to contact an optometrist. You can find a fillable, printable form here.

If your patient does not have an optometrist, they can find an optometrist near them by using the Find an Optometrist button on the top left corner of this page or click here.

Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians

You can learn more about the roles of each here.