Why not treat them all?

The eye does not function in isolation. In fact, 19th-century physicians skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases branched out by adding otology (ear and vestibular diseases), rhinology (diseases of the nose, including the sinuses), and laryngology (diseases of the throat and larynx) to their repertoire.

Eye and Ear Infirmaries were established in Massachusetts, New York, and other large cities. Early EENT (eyes, ears, nose, and throat) physicians viewed the eye and visual system as being closely related to these other organs, so why not treat them all?

We sometimes share office space and treat the same systemic conditions

Optometrists often shared both office space and patients with audiologists (many still do so today). Today’s optometrists practice in multidisciplinary health settings. Of course, the connections of the eye and visual system to the rest of the body go well beyond other tissues of the head and neck. As part of the nervous system, the eye interacts with virtually every other organ system.

Many systemic conditions have ocular complications, and several ocular diseases (and treatments) have systemic implications. A dentist colleague of mine once remarked, “We (optometrists and dentists) do the same thing, just in different places. You see diabetic eye disease, I see diabetic periodontitis. You treat ocular inflammation in a patient with Crohn’s disease; I treat their aphthous ulcers (canker sores). You relieve a Sjogren’s patient’s dry eye symptoms; I enhance their diminished saliva production.”

The eye is the only site where both neurologic and vascular tissues can be viewed directly. Optometrists are, therefore, in a position to team with providers from various other disciplines and professions in the interest of patient health and wellness.

Founded in 1820, the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary is considered to be the first specialty hospital in the United States.


Fun Fact:

The interior of the old NY Eye and Ear Infirmary was used in The Godfather, for the scenes in which Mafia Don Vito Corleone is in the hospital after being shot, and his son, Michael Corleone, attempts to protect him against gunmen who are trying to kill him.