The Role of the Optometrist in Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease Management

The Role of the Optometrist in Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease Management

Optometrists today have a unique opportunity in healthcare to educate and counsel patients with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Most optometrists arguably spend almost twice the amount of time with each patient, when compared to the average 10 minute visit with a primary care physician today.

Optometrists provide a wide range of care, including performing vision and eye assessments; screening for, monitoring, and treating eye disease; and prescribing and supplying spectacles, contact lenses, low vision aids, and therapeutic drugs.

Additionally, they refer patients for specialty care and provide rehabilitative and ancillary services in relation to health and functioning of the visual system, making them essential in the development of a co-management plan.

For diabetics, optometrists can preserve vision and reduce the risk of vision loss in these patients by providing comprehensive eye examination including a dilated retinal examination, timely diagnosis, appropriate management, and referral if retinopathy is present.

The optometrist now plays an important role in educating and encouraging lifestyle change, preventing retinopathy and avoiding subsequent trips to the retina specialist.

Your Optometrist should: 

  • Take a few extra minutes to provide clear and concise patient education.
  • Make patients aware of the need for timely eye care to reduce the risks of vision loss.
  • Inform people of the importance of controlling systemic risk factors for the development and progression of DR and vision loss.

In Europe optometrists are the first point of contact for many patients with eye health difficulties, and in the USA, Doctors of Optometry (OD) are on the frontline of eye and vision care, and provide two-thirds of all primary eye care to the community 1.

However, a study in Australia found that primary care physician did not understand the level of care that optometrists can provide. Therefore, it is important that optometrists communicate their findings to the patient’s primary care physician.