Therapeutic Optometrist (Ophthalmic Medicine Prescriber / Vision Specialist)
A therapeutic optometrist differs from your general optometrist who provides vision tests for glasses and contact lenses and general eye examination. A therapeutic optometrist has undertaken at least one year additional specialty training, specifically in the diagnosis, treatment and management of eye diseases, including microbiology, pathology and ocular pharmacology. They have additional registration with the government which allow them to use and prescribe Schedule 4 prescription-only medicines. They are also required to stay up-to-date with the latest in medical treatments in eye care with mandatory therapeutics-specific continuing education (CPD). This ensures that patients receive the best possible care and treatment for their eye health conditions.
A therapeutic optometrist is qualified to diagnose and initiate treatment for glaucoma (in co-management with an ophthalmologist), prescribe antibiotics and antiviral eye medications for eye infections and ulcers, medications to treat eye redness, inflammation, eye allergies, dry eye and contact lens-related infections, remove corneal foreign bodies, and use eye drops to help treat children with amblyopia (lazy eye). Most treatments prescribed by a therapeutic optometrist are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Therapeutic optometrists are primary eyecare and vision professionals or specialists who can attend to patients promptly and no referral is required from other practitioners.
A therapeutic optometrist can do all the things a general optometrist can do, plus a lot more.
Ocular therapeutics has been part of an optometrist's training since the mid-2000s, and currently about 6 out of 10 optometrists in Victoria are therapeutic optometrists. The previous generations of optometrists are able to upgrade their qualifications to become endorsed in therapeutics by undertaking further post-graduate training, if they wish to.
In addition, therapeutic optometrists are required to stay up-to-date with the latest in medical treatments in eye care with mandatory therapeutic-specific continuing education. This ensures that patients receive the best possible care and treatment for their eye conditions.
What can a therapeutic optometrist do that a general optometrist cannot?
All optometrists can conduct eye tests for spectacles and contact lenses and general eye health examinations.
A general optometrist can recommend non-prescription, over-the-counter eye drops for minor conditions such as dry eye, but only a therapeutic optometrist can prescribe Schedule 4 prescription-only medicines — more potent and targeted — to treat more serious eye conditions. The following are some of the common eye conditions that a therapeutic optometrist can diagnose and initiate treatment for:
Dry eye syndrome - moderate and severe
Bacterial eye infection, e.g. conjunctivitis ('pink eye'), keratitis
Viral eye infections, e.g. eye 'cold sores'
Eye allergies, e.g. allergic conjunctivitis
Contact lens-related red eye
Corneal abrasion and ulcers
Remove corneal foreign bodies
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD)
Severe or infected blepharitis (crusty eyelids)
Eye inflammation, e.g. iritis, uveitis
Glaucoma (in co-management with an ophthalmologist)
Treat children with amblyopia ('lazy eye') with eye drops
Control short-sightedness in children with eye drops
Current list of Schedule 4 topical medicines that a therapeutically-endorsed optometrist can administer and prescribe. Source: Optometry Board of Australia
Can therapeutic optometrists provide better care?
If you have an eye condition that requires to be treated with eye medications, a primary care (no referral required) therapeutic optometrist is able to promptly attend to your condition and prescribe the required treatment, unlike a general optometrist who may be able to assess the condition but may need to refer you to another practitioner (e.g. GP or ophthalmologist) in order to have the treatment prescribed, potentially delaying the treatment process.
Contact lens wearers, who have a higher risk of acute red eyes and infections, and patients with a known risk of recurrent eye inflammation (iritis) or viral infection are in good hands under the care of a therapeutic optometrist. While many patients think of GPs first when they have a sore eye, in many cases a GP may not have the equipment to examine the eye in details. Our optometrist routinely receives referrals from local GPs to examine patients with urgent eye concerns.
Is your optometrist therapeutically endorsed?
To find out whether an optometrist is endorsed in ocular therapeutics, you can search for the optometrist's credentials via the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA):
A therapeutic optometrist will have the following endorsement listed:
Endorsed as qualified to obtain, possess, administer, prescribe or supply schedule 2, 3 or 4 medicines for the treatment of conditions of the eye.
A regular, non-therapeutic optometrist will show the following notation:
The optometrist is not qualified for endorsement for scheduled medicines and is not able to prescribe Schedule 4 medicines for the treatment of conditions of the eye.
For the best optometric care in relation to eye health and management of eye diseases, choose a therapeutic optometrist for your next eye examination.
Glory Eyecare Optometrists are endorsed in ocular therapeutics and provide the best optometric care with leading equipment.