Optometry Laws and Legislation in Colorado

Considering a future career as an optometrist in the great state of Colorado? Here’s a quick guide with a few important things to know about scope of practice, current laws, and ongoing legislation in the state:

Currently, optometrists can

  1. Prescribe Schedule II (hydrocodone products only), III, IV, and V narcotics (including oral antivirals, oral steroids, etc) **
  2. Order imaging, such as MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays
  3. Remove foreign bodies
  4. Perform post-operative care after 90 days with referral from a physician
  5. Treat glaucoma with topicals and orals
  6. Treat anterior uveitis
  7. Perform dilation and irrigation
  8. Perform scraping, debridement, or removal of corneal epithelium
  9. Deliver injections limited to anaphylaxis

Optometrists cannot

  1. Perform surgical procedures (Any procedure that involves mechanical or laser means to cut, alter, or infiltrate human tissue is included here. This restriction includes refractive surgery, any laser procedure, or chalazia removal/eyelid or conjunctival cyst lancing procedures, to name a few) (Colorado is one of a few states with verbage to explicitly exclude surgery-most statutes maintain that the license to practice optometry does not include the right to practice medicine)
  2. Deliver injectables, except for in the case of anaphylaxis
  3. Treat posterior uveitis
  4. Prescribe Schedule I or II narcotics

A few important bills from the last few years…

Colorado’s Sunset Bill

Every ten years in Colorado, a “sunset bill” process occurs which reevaluates and clarifies points of interest in the current legislation. The last sunset process occurred in 2011, which included a few significant amendments. Importantly, the bill gave the Colorado Board of Optometry autonomy over decisions involving new drugs and procedures. In other words, the COA will not need to go through the lengthy legislative process every time there is a change in the way optometrists might practice in the state. Another important victory to note is that the COA reworded the definition of an optometrist to more closely parallel that of a dentist, which will help pave the path towards emphasizing an optometrist’s role and the importance of regular eye exams.


Federal laws have recently mandated the transition of hydrocodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II class narcotic. In March of 2014, this law ensured that optometrists could continue to have the right to prescribe hydrocodone combination drugs after the reclassification.

The future of Optometry in Colorado…

“We have strived, and will continue, to do whatever we can to protect the scope of practice that we currently have, and to do everything in our power, legislatively, to keep our practice acting contemporary and in the best interests of our members” — Dr. Mitchell Munson, Immediate Past President of the AOA and OD from the state of Colorado

Colorado Optometric AssociationOverall, Colorado is a diverse state to practice optometry and has made and will continue to make large strides towards maintaining and expanding their scope of practice and the overall advancement of our profession.

Interested in joining the ranks of Colorado optometrists and students fighting to increase scope of practice in the state? Consider attending Colorado Vision Summit, hosted in a different city in Colorado each summer. Also consider attending AOA-PAC’s Congressional Advocacy Conference in March to have the opportunity to speak with legislators on Capitol Hill alongside passionate optometrists from the state. Legislators really value the viewpoints of students, so now is a great time to begin learning how to advocate for optometry while helping further the missions of the state!

If you are interested in becoming a student member of the Colorado Optometric Association, visit the COA’s website and fill out the online application form. AOSA membership is required for COA membership. If you have any more questions about the COA, feel free to contact Lisa Wright, Associate Executive Director of the COA at lwright@visioncare.org.

Make sure to become familiar with Colorado’s optometry statute for the exact verbage of the current laws!

Here is an infographic showing the scope of practice in all 50 states.


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