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Can Optometrists Prescribe Medication in Canada?


The eye is a human organ that baffled the smartest people for many thousands of years. Over the course of time in human civilization, we learned a great deal about the stomach, the circulatory system, and many other components of our bodies. Eyes, however, remained a bit of a mystery. The best we could do was to prescribe different sorts of glasses, and that wasn't until the 17th century. These days, however, we understand a lot more about the eye, and a qualified optometrist can help diagnose and treat a very wide range of problems associated with vision and the eye itself. Though because optometrists are specialty doctors dealing only with the eyes, many people wonder whether or not they're allowed to prescribe drugs like many other physicians.

The short answer here is yes; an optometrist is freely allowed to prescribe medications. The more complex answer is that an optometrist has a very limited scope of what they're able to prescribe to patients. When an eye doctor writes a prescription, they're writing it specifically for something related to the eye. A regular doctor can give you meds for everything from ingrown nails and broken bones to anti-rejection medications for organ transplants. The optometrist's menu is a lot leaner. Here are some situations when an eye doctor can write a prescription.

Situations When An Optometrist Can Prescribe Meds

Severe Allergies

Almost everyone suffers some form of allergies, but some people suffer them so severely that their eyes will become dry, red and could even start itching really badly and swell up. Eye drops are typically recommended for such situations but often is the case that those over-the-counter (OTC) drops do not solve the issue. This is certainly an instance where an optometrist can write out a prescription for something a lot stronger.

Bacterial and Viral Eye Infections

There are two main types of eye infections people can get: Bacterial and viral. Each brings about its own list of symptoms and issues, and each has the potential to permanently damage vision. You have things that are common and not quite that severe on the lower end of the spectrum, like conjunctivitis (pink eye), but these infections can get a whole lot worse. A qualified optometrist will definitely proscribe something strong enough to kill the infection in these cases.

Corneal Damage

Our eyelids are insanely quick and can close to protect our eyes in a millisecond. However, they're not always able to stop the damage of foreign objects. It is quite often the case that people go to visit an eye doctor because they have experienced physical damage, and they end up being diagnosed with something like a corneal abrasion. These injuries can be very painful, obstruct one's vision, and can even have permanent implications if not properly treated. So an optometrist will certainly write a prescription in such cases.



Glaucoma is a serious issue with the eyes, and it comes in many different forms. For many varieties of this disease, it is degenerative, and it can get a whole lot worse and even eventually cause blindness. Glaucoma can also cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Luckily, there are multiple medications out there that will help treat glaucoma, most of which require a prescription. You have a lot of different prescription eye drops you could take, as well as medicinal tablets. As for an optometrist being able to subscribe something like medical marijuana, this is up to the laws of the province and will usually require a therapeutic optometrist to sign off on the prescription.

While an optometrist may be specifically an eye doctor, they went to medical school and practiced in residency and have around a dozen years of education and experience, just like any other doctor. So, when it comes to writing out a prescription for a patient, they are legally allowed to do so because they are more than qualified. A licensed optometrist can write all sorts of different prescriptions. The only catch, of course, is that they need to be related to the eye. They won't be able to write pain scripts for any sort of other issue.

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