Give optometrists more tools to manage myopia

The Singapore Optometric Association is pleased that the myopia rate in Singapore is stable (Myopia rate here stable amid rising levels worldwide; Aug 16).

However, we foresee challenges ahead. There is still enormous work and education to do to further reduce the high prevalence of myopia in children, as well as to care for the eye health of our ageing population.

Since atropine eye drops seem to be effective in controlling myopia in children, with no side effects, they should be made easily accessible to the public.

Currently, patients need to see an ophthalmologist to get such eye drops. This increases eye healthcare costs and overloads the public hospitals.

The eye drops should be made available to optometrists and pharmacists, who are more accessible to patients needing myopia treatment.

Optometrists are given the role of refracting the eyes of people of all ages and performing eye health examinations. However, such roles cannot be fully fulfilled when they cannot use diagnostic eye drops.

I urge the authorities to allow degree-trained optometrists to use two types of eye drops.

First, cycloplegia eye drops, which enable optometrists to obtain a more accurate status of refractive error in young children and other patients.

This would allow optometrists to prescribe more suitable vision correction to children.

Second, diagnostic eye drops, which give optometrists a clearer view of the retina to detect glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataract and age-related macular degeneration.

These eye diseases may not have any symptoms in the early stages. With diagnostic eye drops, optometrists would be able to conduct a more comprehensive examination to detect these eye diseases earlier, refer patients to eye doctors or other healthcare providers earlier, and improve the treatment prognosis.

Optometrists can play a crucial role in the prevention of blindness in our population.

I urge the Government to commence a local optometry degree course to train our optometrists, as there are not enough degree-level optometrists on the front line.

Koh Liang Hwee (Dr)


Singapore Optometric Association

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2017, with the headline 'Give optometrists more tools to manage myopia'. Print Edition | Subscribe