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Optometry focuses on the study of vision and eye health. An optometrist conducts eye examinations, prescribes corrective lenses, and diagnoses and prescribes treatment for eye conditions.

Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors trained to perform corrective eye surgery, or opticians, who are trained to grind lenses but not licensed to examine or treat patients. Optometry is tightly regulated by boards that vary by state. An optometrist may practice a subspecialty, such as pediatric optometry, ocular disease and noninvasive vision therapy.

Visit an optometrist for annual eye examinations to ensure healthy eyes, good vision and to catch any problems early. Visit the optometrist immediately if you are experiencing eye problems such as red and painful eyes, swollen or flaky eyelids, spots or floaters in your eyes, sensitivity to light, blurred vision or any other discomfort, as these may indicate a serious eye problem.

Common eye conditions an optometrist treats include acanthamoeba (bacterial infection), myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (blurred vision), computer vision syndrome, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids), cataracts, conjunctivitis (“pink eye”), diabetic retinopathy (a sight-threatening condition brought on by diabetes), dry eye, glaucoma, or macular degeneration (vision loss).

Optometrists also test peripheral awareness (side vision), eye coordination, depth perception, the ability to focus on an object, and color vision.

While the term “20/20” is the standard by which normal vision is measured, it does not refer to perfect vision. It is a term used to express a normal level of clarity of vision, which is measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what a person with normal vision should be able to see at that distance. If you have 20/80 vision, you must be as close as 20 feet to see what someone with normal vision can see at 80 feet.

Certain vitamins and nutrients contribute to healthy eyes and good vision, including lutein/zeaxanthin (green leafy vegetables), vitamin C (fruits and vegetables), vitamin E (nuts and sweet potatoes), and zinc (liver or zinc supplements). These nutrients are credited with reducing the risk of certain eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

If you are working at a computer all day, there is risk of developing computer vision syndrome due to eye strain. To prevent this condition, position the center of the computer screen at least 4 to 5 inches below eye level and at least 20 inches away from your face. Use an anti-glare screen to minimize glare. For every 20 minutes you are on the computer, look into the distance for 20 seconds to rest your eyes, and also rest your eyes for 15 minutes after every two hours of computer use.

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