An optometrist is a health service provider who is involved exclusively with vision problems. Optometrists are specifically educated and trained by an accredited optometry college in a four year course, but have not attended medical school. They are state licensed to examine the eyes and to determine the presence of vision problems.

Optometrists determine visual acuity and prescribe spectacles, contact lenses and eye exercises. Optometrists can do everything an optician can do and more. Some states permit optometrists to give limited treatments of some eye conditions, like medication for Glaucoma, but some critics say an Ophthalmologist is much more qualified to prescribe.

(Based on a somewhat true story.)

Long in denial concerning my failing vision, I recently fumbled my way to an optometrist for an eye test. Placing a chart in front of me, the optometrist asked me to list off the smallest letters at the bottom of the chart. I couldn't, so he asked for the row above. Then, with desperation in his voice, the row above that.
"How did you get here?" he asked with concern, "You didn't drive here, did you?"
"Um, yeah. Why? What score do you need to legally drive a vehicle?"
He recited the numbers.
"What was my score?"
"A fair way below that."

For years I had terrified the foolhardy friends that risked passage in my car. The phenomenon of glowing blotches metamorphesising into oncoming traffic was finally explained. The optometrist's opinion was that my as yet not damaged car could not be the result of mere chance, but must be under a covenant of divine providence. The used car salesman had told me that the previous owner was an old lady who only took it out on Sundays, but apparently he forgot to mention that the journey was from her Gypsy caravan to church, where she must have prayed her little heart out.

I attempted to steer conversation away from traffic code violations with some humor. I upturned and examined my palm. "I don't seem to have any unexplained hair growth, is there any truth to those old wives tales?"
He paused before responding, his attention remaining on his work. His tone became serious. "All I can say is that you have perhaps the worst eyesight I have ever seen. Only you can know the answer to that question."

I believed that another change of topic was in order.
"I spend a lot of time in front of a computer monitor, working, and using the internet. Do you think somehow that could have an effect?"
"Over half of internet traffic is for pornography."
I looked up. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"There is lots of porn on the internet, isn't there?"
"I guess so", I shrugged.
"I guess so", he said.

He extended a bulky metal device on a boom. It looked similar to the coin operated binoculars that overlook the statue of liberty. He stopped it so that it hung in the air between myself and the chart on the distant wall then told me to look through the eye holes. He clicked pieces of glass into place until I could list the letters to his satisfaction. To illustrate my situation, he sketched an eye and drew a lens diagram.
"The rays are supposed to focus at the back of your eye."
The rays in the diagram converged behind the back of my retinal wall. He kept talking and tracing paths with his finger, but my concentration was elsewhere as I underwent a sharp, painful flashback of year 11 physics. He put the paper down and summarised my condition. "You have myopia, and require corrective lenses. Your problem is that you have overly large pupils that allow in too much light."
To prove his assertion, he made a pin prick in a piece of paper and held it up in front of my eye. Viewed through the hole, the chart was in perfect focus.

"Hang on," I interrupted. "You are going to charge me hundreds of dollars for glasses and you mean to say that I could have just worn a paper bag on my head with some eye holes poked into it?"
"As a medical professional, I advise you to utilise your newly found powers of vision and take a look at yourself in a mirror. There you may find other reasons as to why your idea has merit."
I accepted the prescription papers and kept my eyes on the carpet until I was out of the room.
I should have hit the cheeky bastard, but I never hit a man in glasses, and I couldn't make him out clearly, anyway.

Op*tom"e*trist (?), n.

One who is skilled in or practices optometry.


© Webster 1913

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