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Year : 1998  |  Volume : 46  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 175

Optometry and eye care in India

Correspondence Address:
R Dandona

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PMID: 10085635

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How to cite this article:
Dandona R. Optometry and eye care in India. Indian J Ophthalmol 1998;46:175

How to cite this URL:
Dandona R. Optometry and eye care in India. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 1998 [cited 2023 Mar 24];46:175. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/ijo/pages/default.aspx/text.asp?1998/46/3/175/14950


We in India are challenged with an ever-increasing burden of blindness and visual impairment. Blindness continues unabated despite all the efforts made so far. Maybe it is time to stop and ponder over the eye-care system that is in place today. Probably there is a need for more eye-care professionals with various levels of skills to deal with the present need for eye care in India. One such type of professional is the optometrist. If ophthalmologists are to make the best of their time and skill, there should be better utilisation of optometry in India. For this to happen, a certain clarity has to be brought to its role.

Optometry continues to be defined and described as a profession of limited knowledge in our country. It is most often misunderstood, misinterpreted, and sometimes belittled. Optometry has been in the process of interpreting its domain for nearly 100 years now in our country but not much has changed. This is obvious from the fact that the term "optometrist" is readily interchangeable with "optician", "technician", and "refractionist" even within the ophthalmology circle.

Why is that we have not moved forward? Before we look at India in particular, let us take a look at what has been happening in the developed world. Optometry has expanded from providing simple refractions and ophthalmic lenses to comprehensive vision care. An optometrist is an independent primary health care provider who diagnoses, treats and manages some diseases and disorders of the visual/ocular system. The types of treatment offered by optometrists are prescribing glasses and contact lenses, and rehabilitation of the visually impaired. As health-care professionals, optometrists often work with other health professionals in co-managing the care of patients. Higher educational achievements and more demanding tasks than before are being envisaged for optometry. The unique feature of optometry that has emerged over the years is that it has slowly, but steadily, extended beyond the refractive status in the visual system to the anatomical and physiological aspects of sight. This has led to better diagnostic skills and understanding of the treatment options available.

In India, optometry has progressed very slowly. Optometry has to plan for the present and make efforts to ensure its progress and performance by establishing appropriate educational standards. Optometric educators have tried and are trying to improve the quality of their students and raise the standard of optometry. But these efforts have not had much of an impact for the simple reason that they have not been united and thus the impact is diluted. Do we know the number of schools of optometry in India? One, three, five, ten, ....? No, we do not know because there is no accepted definition of optometry in our country. Which schools are optometry schools, the ones offering a degree in optometry, or the ones offering a diploma in optometry, or the ones offering a diploma in ophthalmic techniques, or the ones offering a diploma in orthoptics, or....? The list is endless. As the 20th century comes to a close, optometry in India has to define itself, improve itself, and unite itself. A starting point for this would be to set standards and guidelines for the profession and the institutes/schools of optometry. This would happen only if all forms of "optometry" unite under one body.

The contribution of optometrists could be in terms of primary eye-care providers, thereby resulting in distribution of work with ophthalmologists so that the latter spend their time, resources, and effort in treating eye disorders and reducing blindness at a level commensurate with their skills. This in the longterm, could prove to be more cost effective for society. The optometrist and ophthalmologist have to work inseparably to deal with the large burden of blindness in our country. There is enough unmet eye-care need in India for both ophthalmologists and the optometrists, and therefore their working complementary to each other would lead to better service to society. If optometry as a profession gets better defined and standardised in India, the eye-care system and society at large would benefit.


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