Treatment and management

Treatment for vision disorders involves a wide range of health services including primary care and specialist care services.

Primary care services involve the initial diagnosis, treatment and referral of the condition, and the provision of continuing care through consultations, monitoring and follow-up. This includes general practice and optometry.

Secondary or specialty care services generally follows primary care services if needed, and involves treatment of specific diseases and organ systems. For eye health, these include ophthalmology and hospital services.

These services provide treatment for vision disorders in many ways, including eye checks, prescription of glasses or contact lenses, prescription of medications or injections, and surgery [1].

Primary care

Primary care for visual impairment often begins with a visit to a General Practitioner (GP) or optometrist. In 2015–16, eye disorders accounted for 1.9% of Australian GP consultations [2]. The GP plays a key role as part of the primary care system in preventing and treating visual impairment. GPs can provide information on eye health and vision care, perform immediate eye checks and prescribe treatment for some eye problems [1]. If necessary, the GP can provide referrals to optometrists, ophthalmologists or hospitals [3].

Optometrists also play an important role in the primary care of eye health. Optometrists have access to specialist equipment and education to assist with the testing of visual acuity and diagnosis of visual impairment. Optometrists also serve as a referrer to ophthalmologists for specialist care.

In 2017–18, there were 9.4 million Medicare claims for optometrist consultations for 7.2 million patients [4].

Specialist care

Specialist care usually occurs within hospitals or specialist care facilities. Primary care facilities will refer patients with vision impairment that cannot be corrected through simple medication or visual aids to ophthalmologists. Ophthalmologists receive and follow specialty training in the treatment and correction of vision impairment and follow procedural guidelines [5, 6].

Specialist care also involves hospitalisations to perform surgery and specialist treatment. Ophthalmologists are often required to perform surgery to correct visual impairment [7].

In 2017–18, there were 957,933 Medicare claims for surgical operations by an ophthalmologist [8].


  1. Optometry Australia 2019. GPs & health care professionals. Canberra: Optometry Australia.
  2. Britt H, Miller GC, Bayram C, Henderson J, Valenti L, Harrison C et al. 2016. A decade of Australian general practice activity 2006-07 to 2015-16. General practice series no. 41. Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  3. Optometry Board of Australia 2018. 2018 Revised guidelines for use of scheduled medicines. Canberra: Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
  4. DoH (Department of Health) 2018. Annual Medicare Statistics (Tables 1.1, 1.10). Canberra: DoH. Viewed 22 January 2019.
  5. RANZCO (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists) 2018. Policies and Guidelines. Sydney: RANZCO. Viewed 04 October 2018.
  6. RANZCO 2017. RANZCO Clinical Practice Guidelines Development Framework.Sydney: RANZCO.
  7. DoH 2014. The delivery of eye health programs and services. Canberra: DoH.
  8. DHS (Department of Human Services) 2018. Medicare Group Reports. Canberra: DHS. Viewed 22 January 2019.