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World Optometry Day

Illustration of glasses, an eye, and the world, for World Optometry Day.

What is World Optometry Day?

World Optometry Day is a day that celebrates optometrists and their contributions to vision care and eye health around the world. The World Council of Optometry (WCO) invites patients and eye care providers alike to observe the day every year on March 23. 

This year, the celebration starts early, with World Optometry Week beginning March 17 and ending on World Optometry Day on March 23, 2024. World Optometry Week gives you a reason to honor your eye doctor for more than just one day. 

Each year, the WCO establishes a theme to honor optometrists and the practice of optometry everywhere. The theme for World Optometry Week and Day 2024 is “Advancing Optometry’s Commitment to Global Eye Care.” This backs the WCO’s initiative to make eye care a human right. By making eye care more accessible, common vision conditions can be treated and avoidable blindness can be prevented in both children and adults.

History of World Optometry Day

The first World Optometry Day took place on March 23, 1986, and has continued as an annual celebration ever since. The International Optometric and Optical League (IOOL) established it to highlight the expansion and importance of optometry worldwide. The IOOL is now known as the World Council of Optometry (WCO).  

World Optometry Day is a significant observation for both providers and patients. It raises awareness around the subject of optometry and reminds the public why routine eye care is so crucial.

Importance of optometry and eye care professions

Optometrists are an integral part of well-rounded eye and vision care. They provide routine comprehensive eye exams to check the health of your eyes and the clarity of your vision. They prescribe glasses and contacts, and see patients with other eye care needs too. For example, you should always contact your eye care provider if you develop eye discomfort or notice any changes in your eyesight.   

Whether you need glasses to correct a refractive error or you have a more serious eye condition, your eye doctor can help. 

Why you need routine eye exams

It’s important to see your optometrist on a regular basis to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear. A comprehensive eye exam is recommended every one to two years for most patients over 18. If you have an existing condition or higher risk of developing eye disease, your doctor may recommend more frequent visits. 

Some medical conditions show early signs in the eyes, giving your optometrist insight into your general health as well. It’s not uncommon for an eye doctor to be the first to detect signs of diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol (among other conditions). Depending on their findings, your doctor may refer you to a specialist and/or recommend further testing. 

SEE RELATED: How often should you get your eyes checked?

Optometrists vs. ophthalmologists

What’s the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists? Optometrists and ophthalmologists have different pathways for their education and training. And in the majority of cases, only ophthalmologists perform surgery.

Optometrists provide primary, routine eye care for the typical patient. They: 

  • Diagnose, treat and manage many eye conditions, including injuries and infections. 

  • Perform routine exams and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses

  • Attend optometry school and earn a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after earning an undergraduate degree.

Ophthalmologists offer more specialized eye care for patients who need it. They:

  • Provide diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases, and many specialize in specific conditions.

  • Perform surgical procedures. 

  • Attend medical school and earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree after earning an undergraduate degree. 

LEARN MORE: Optometrist vs. ophthalmologist: How to choose an eye doctor 

Supporting global eye health on World Optometry Day

Many organizations celebrate World Optometry Day by providing resources for people who need eye care. Of course, a great number of services extend beyond the annual event. 

The OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation is one of the organizations that helps people get vision care year-round. They provide free eye exams and glasses to underserved populations in several countries. 

It’s with the help of these types of agencies that World Optometry Day can make such an important impact each year. 

If you’d like to support global eye health as an individual, you can:

  • Donate to various causes

  • Advocate for worldwide vision care 

  • Volunteer at a local event 

And don’t forget to advocate for your own vision! Contact your eye doctor today to schedule your next comprehensive eye exam.

READ NEXT: Are eye exams just as important as other health exams?

News release: World Council of Optometry announces theme for 2024 World Optometry Week celebration March 17-23. World Council of Optometry. January 2024.

World Optometry Day: The evolution of optometry. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. March 2021.

Our history. World Council of Optometry. Accessed March 2024.

What's a doctor of optometry? American Optometric Association. Accessed March 2024.

Comprehensive eye exams. American Optometric Association. Accessed March 2024.

What is an ophthalmologist vs optometrist? EyeSmart. American Academy of Ophthalmology. February 2024.

Our work. OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation. Accessed March 2024.

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