Iowa Optometry: The Scope of Practice

Optometry is a profession that is legislated on a state by state basis. This means every state has its own laws regarding what care an optometrist can legally provide. The optometric scope of practice has come a long way since the first billed eye exam in 1895. Through the formation of the national American Optometric Association (AOA), and each state’s own state optometry board, the scope of practice has been steadily increasing. In regards to practicing optometry in Iowa, the Iowa Optometric Association (IOA) has been working hard to continue to expand the scope of practice.

In Iowa, optometrists can:

  • Prescribe oral medications including antibiotics, antivirals, and DMARDs
  • Prescribe Schedule II, III, IV, and V drugs
  • Prescribe oral steroids (for a maximum of 14 days without consultation of a physician)
  • Perform injections to counter anaphylaxis
  • Remove superficial foreign bodies
  • Perform minor surgical procedures (chalazion removal, etc)

In Iowa, optometrists can not:

  • Perform surgical procedures that require anesthesia, sedation, globe penetration, or lasers (removal of pterygia, refractive surgery, strabismus surgery, etc)
  • Perform injections for reasons other than anaphylaxis (such as injections for treatment of diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, or steroid injections)
  • Prescribe oral steroids longer than 14 days without consultation of a physician

The most recent legislative attempt (as of January 2017) to increase the scope of practice in Iowa is a bill that allows for injections that do not penetrate the globe. This would allow optometrists to inject steroids (for example, to treat a chalazion) or perform fluorescein angiography to evaluate the integrity of the retinal vasculature. This bill is currently in the introductory phase – follow its progress as it advances through the House and the Senate, or check out the current official state of optometry laws in Iowa’s code for optometry.

In addition to their dedication to improving the scope of practice, the Iowa Optometric Association (IOA) also strives to promote and improve accessibility to quality eye care. They do so by actively engaging with InfantSEE and Vision USA programs. InfantSEE allows for an infant between 6 months to 1 year old to receive an eye exam at no cost. Vision USA is an organization that provides free eye exams and glasses to uninsured, low-income citizens. If you are considering practicing optometry in Iowa, be sure to get involved with the IOA to keep optometry thriving!

For more information about individual states’ scopes of practice, check out our constantly updated legislative list article. For more information about optometry legislation in general, check out the articles in our optometry legislative series.

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