Make eye health a key aspect of visit to optical shop

As an eyecare professional, I am concerned that the optical trade moving towards being faster, cheaper and more convenient may give the wrong impression about the importance of primary eyecare in the community ("New vision for optical shops to stay competitive"; May 3).

Refraction is a test that measures a person's prescription for spectacles or contact lenses. Till today, it remains the bread and butter of the optical trade.

Performing a quick and accurate refraction is important, but refraction alone does not tell all about the health of the eye.

A complete eye examination includes not only refraction but also a comprehensive examination of the eye structures, such as the cornea, iris, crystalline lens, retina and optic nerve head, as well as other important measurements such as eye pressure.

Potentially blinding eye conditions such as glaucoma (painless gradual loss of peripheral vision), diabetic retinopathy or retinal tears cannot be detected just by refraction alone.

Opticians are well trained in the determination of the refractive status of the eye and dispensing of optical appliances.

However, eye-health examination can be conducted only by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. Optometrists, in addition, are trained in contact lens fitting.

Many modern optometric practices are well equipped to examine the overall health of the eye using sophisticated instruments, such as the slit-lamp biomicroscope, which provides a magnified view of the front portion of the eye, and the fundus camera, which can image the back portion of the eye.

Some new entrants in the market are focusing on providing quick spectacle service.

However, existing optometric practices can differentiate themselves by providing a very important and value-added service in the form of a comprehensive eye examination on top of refraction ("Suitable optical shops could shift focus to primary eyecare" by Mr Ng Chee Kheon; May 5).

At the same time, consumer education plays an important role.

Eyecare professionals should take advantage of this opportunity to educate their customers on the importance of a comprehensive eye examination and how they can preserve their sight through regular eye checks.

Lim Yun Chong