Thursday, 28 May 2015

[Straits Times] Boost role of optometrists in eye care

MANY ageing Singaporeans are risking irreversible loss of vision from glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related maculopathy ("Many diabetics at risk of going blind" and "Educate the elderly on need for regular eye checks: Gan"; both published on Sunday).
Loss of vision can be prevented if such eye conditions are picked up early, during routine eye examinations.
The Optometrists and Opticians Act requires optometrists to check for ocular abnormalities, such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
This thorough eye exam is done each time a patient goes to an optometric practice to make a pair of spectacles (if they have not had a yearly eye exam).
Optometric practices are located all over Singapore, and operate seven days a week and after office hours. They are easily accessible, and waiting time is much shorter, as compared with polyclinics and hospitals. Any ocular abnormalities that require treatment will be referred to an ophthalmologist.
Optometrists are given this important role of performing primary eye care. However, we are currently not allowed to use diagnostic agents that dilate the pupils to provide a more comprehensive view of the retina.
Optometrists in many developed countries have been using these dilating eye drops safely, and helping to detect eye problems earlier and referring patients for timely treatment.
We are a group of well-trained professionals who play an important role in primary eye care in Singapore.
I urge the Ministry of Health to expedite the implementation of diagnostic agents by optometrists, so that we can effectively partner ophthalmologists in preventing the loss of sight in our ageing population.
Koh Liang Hwee (Dr)
Singapore Optometric Association