What is Optometry?

Optometry is an independent freelance healthcare (non-medical) profession within the primary care sector. It addresses the prevention, detection and resolution of vision problems by improving the efficiency and performance of the visual system. The first diplomas in Optics-Optometry were awarded in Spain in 1956. Since then Optometry has continued to evolve, becoming increasingly more professional and is currently taught at university at Degree, Master’s and Doctorate level.

The Optometric Examination

The aim of the optometric examination is to achieve maximum visual performance, meaning that it is necessary, in all cases, to not only consider the patients’ personal circumstances (development, age, general health, cognitive aspects, etc.), but also their backgrounds (academic level, occupation, ergonomics, sporting and social needs, etc.) in order to contextualise the results of the examination and decide upon the optimum course of treatment for the person in question.

What difference is there between an Optometrist and an Ophthalmologist?

  • An Optometrist is a healthcare professional whose work centres on the evaluation and treatment of visual difficulties, irrespective of whether or not these are pathology-linked, as well as on the preventive study of the appearance of visual performance difficulties.
  • An Ophthalmologist is a doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases.
  • An Optometrist performs refractions (prescriptions), but does not treat vision-related diseases.
  • An Ophthalmologist also performs refractions (prescriptions) or takes optical measurements to obtain the best visual acuity, visual discrimination or “sight”.

What is Behavioural and Developmental Optometry?

Several work disciplines or philosophies exist within Optometry:

  1. CLASSICAL OPTOMETRY: Its purpose is to detect and correct the very earliest refractive difficulties that affect visual acuity.
  2. FUNCTIONAL OPTOMETRY: Visual difficulties are the result of underperforming eyes. By improving visual performance these anomalies should disappear.
  3. BEHAVIOURAL OPTOMETRY: Behavioural Optometry has its roots in the 1940s and 50s and is based on the theory of Behavioural Psychology, which states that human behaviour is stimulus-linked and when the stimulus changes, so does our behaviour. Although the name Behavioural Optometry remains unchanged, the measurement techniques and treatments have most certainly evolved and, at present, the type of work developed by Behavioural Optometrists falls within the framework of Neuroscience, which is why we should be referring it to as Neuro Optometry. In order to interpret Visual Performance, it is necessary to observe the person as a whole. All the behavioural fields: motor, reading-writing and socio-personal are linked to vision and visual control. In the same way that a person’s Vision and mechanisms of action – their behaviour – are interrelated and cannot be considered in isolation. The work of the Behavioural Optometrist involves “entering the mind” of the patient in order to understand how they are using their visual system and draft a work plan aimed at making changes that lead to improving visual performance and adapting the visual system to the needs of the individual. Behavioural-Cognitive Optometry is a specialist branch of Optometry that focuses, above all, on the field of Development and Learning.

Which conditions does the Behavioural Optometrist fulfil?

The Behavioural-Cognitive Optometrist is a highly qualified professional familiar with the general development of the individual and how vision interacts with it.

In addition to successfully completing a university Degree, Master’s or Doctorate studies in Optometry, the Behavioural-Cognitive Optometrist must undertake specialist training in:

  • Neurophysiology.
  • Motor Development.
  • Cognitive Development.
  • Psychopedagogical Therapies.
  • Clinical Optometry.
  • The Diagnosis and Treatment of Visual Problems.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of motor development problems; aspects of laterality and directionality; information processing; visual-cognitive re-education techniques.
  • Using special techniques: phototherapy, reading and writing filters; postural prisms; compensatory prisms, etc.