Doctors of Optometry 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. Doctors of optometry prescribe medications, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, spectacle lenses, contact lenses, and perform certain surgical procedures.
TRUTH: Doctors of optometry provide more than two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S and have primary practice locations in 80% of counties in Arkansas. Doctors of optometry perform the majority of comprehensive, dilated eye examinations and are committed to early diagnosis of eye disease. They are also commonly the first health care provider to see signs of systemic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis. Arkansas is in the top ten states for prevalence of diabetes which is the leading cause of new blindness in adults under age 74. Optometrists are committed to helping prevent diabetes related vision loss. Optometrists utilize the most advanced diagnostic equipment to diagnose eye disease.
TRUTH: Arkansas optometrists have provided care to their patients by prescribing medications for the treatment of eye diseases such as glaucoma and by performing minor surgical procedures such as foreign body removal for over thirty years. Optometrists use their training in systemic disease and pharmacology when prescribing eye drops and oral medications. This care has been beneficial to our citizens in rural areas where other eye care providers may not be available. Optometrists routinely provide post-operative care to patients who have had cataract or other surgical procedures. Most surgeons refer these patients back the day following surgery and optometrists are experienced in managing any post-surgical complications that might occur.
TRUTH: Doctors of optometry are limited by the Arkansas law to provide the best care for their patients. Arkansas optometrists have been safely prescribing medications for decades. Current eye research is focused on new routes of drug administration that are more efficient, cost effective, and improve compliance (for example--–periodic injections rather than daily medications.) Other doctors are not restricted in any routes of administration. Optometrists should be able to give their patients the highest standard of care. All of the procedures that optometrists are educated to do but are not allowed to by law are performed in-office without general anesthesia, and patients can walk out on their own after the procedure. HB1251 would allow doctors of optometry who receive credentialing (through additional education, exams, and proctoring) to perform a few laser procedures that are performed on the front of the eye. Again, these are performed in the office without the need for general anesthesia. It would also include the removal of minor skin lesions (skin tags), and injections near the eye and only within the most superficial layer of the eye.