Optometrists play key role in primary eye care

An eye-screening being done on a patient.
An eye-screening being done on a patient. PHOTO: ST FILE

We refer to the article (Eye-disease cases may spike in next two decades, study shows; June 13).

In March 2015, scientific journal Nature published a report on "The Myopia Boom", concluding that short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions.

In May 2016, scientific journal Ophthalmology reported that 50 per cent of the world's population would be myopic by 2050.

Last year, the World Health Organisation published an article on "The Impact of Myopia and High Myopia", highlighting the burden of high myopia and the associated increasing risk of eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment and macular degeneration.

The numbers are alarming, but not surprising.

The Singapore Optometric Association has been actively promoting the roles of optometrists in primary eye care in Singapore.

The increasing prevalence of myopia, especially high myopia, should be seen as a national health concern which, in time to come, will only add to the numbers of degenerative eye conditions such as myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma and retinal detachments as the population ages.

At a recent myopia management convention for 400 optometrists and opticians, it was highlighted that:

- Myopia is an emerging public health issue.

- High myopia increases the risks of retinal detachment, cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

- Myopia progression can be slowed down by pharmacological and optical intervention strategies such as orthokeratology (corneal reshaping with special contact lenses), specific designs of spectacles and contact lenses, and low-dose atropine.

- Spending time outdoors also help to reduce myopia progression.

Optometrists are well-placed in the community to manage myopia and screen for eye diseases. The public should include eye health checks whenever they update their spectacles and contact lenses. This is even more so since online purchasing is getting popular.

High-risk persons such as those with high myopia (greater than -5.00D), aged 60 years and with certain conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases may need to be reviewed at least annually.

Health authorities should also include optometrists in the national efforts to protect Singaporeans' eye health, and empower them in every way necessary for optometrists to carry out their professional tasks to the fullest extent.

Koh Liang Hwee (Dr)

President

Singapore Optometric Association