September 28, 2015

The Pathology of Traditional Optometry

Dr. Selwyn Super

Fifty years ago, the American Optometric Association chose to adopt the medical model and conduct themselves as primary care practitioners. Over time, this fateful decision has become entrenched. It has also necessitated the teaching of pathology in the curriculum at the expense of other core areas of optometry previously considered essential to its lifeblood. In addition to the regular exam, every optometrist must also pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam, which contains three sections focused on pathology, a disproportionate number by any standard.

Fact is, only five per cent of the population presents with pathology. Why has optometry fixated on this narrow segment, and not on the functional and non-pathological needs of the greater public? It’s a worthwhile question that needs to be asked.

Vision scientists understand that the complexity of vision goes far beyond the phenomenon of refraction, refractive error and its correction, and how this affects brain function and human behavior. They also recognize the importance of paying attention to how eyes move, focus and combine both binocularly and with other sensorimotor, perceptual and cognitive or emotional systems. In these areas, well-trained optometrists can play a major role to truly improve the potential of human beings.

What do we know for sure?

Refractive error is a rule rather than an exception, and that it increases with age. Cases of myopia are growing dramatically year after year. Non-strabismus disorders of binocular vision are as ubiquitous as refractive errors, and potentially affect the lives of learners and producers detrimentally. Together with amblyopia, these remain debilitating and unsolved problems.

Furthermore, all human beings can benefit from improved general mental and physical strength, stamina, suppleness and speed, to the benefit of each individual’s skill sets—intellectual, occupational, and recreational.

Fortunately, Eyecarrot is helping to shift our focus toward brain and vision, targeting both vision care professionals and the larger public with the goal of creating better understanding and encouraging cooperation for the betterment of humankind. Pathology exists, but it must be put in healthy perspective.