Optometrists play vital role in eye care

Optometrists play vital role in eye care

The Mind Your Body article ("Screen for diseases with eye exam"; Thursday) neglected the profession of optometry.

Optometry is an educated and registered primary eye-care profession. Optometrists are qualified and trained to detect glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, among other eye conditions.

Yet the article said only ophthalmologists (eye specialists) can offer such services.

Indeed, optometrists have diagnosed many eye diseases and referred them for specialist treatment, even before symptoms developed.

As the front line of eye care, optometrists are in a unique position to provide a comprehensive eye examination when the patient comes in for a pair of spectacles.

As most people are without symptoms, they would have no reason to visit an ophthalmologist - and many don't.

Waiting until symptoms develop will only mean longer, more expensive treatment with generally poorer outcomes.

If the public makes a beeline for ophthalmology clinics, as the article suggests, even though they are without symptoms, it will put a strain on the system, causing waiting times to increase significantly.

Ophthalmologists will then have less time to spend on serious cases that require specialist care.

Optometrists are well placed to help eradicate preventable blindness in Singapore. The Ministry of Health has recognised this role played by optometrists and regulated the profession in 2007 by passing the Optometrists and Opticians Act.

In fact, under the Act, it is the optometrist's duty to detect any eye abnormality when he examines the eyes for the purpose of prescribing optical aids and, upon suspecting any eye disorder, to refer the patient to other health professionals for further treatment.

Letter by Koh Liang Hwee (Dr)


Singapore Optometric Association

This article was first published on May 24, 2014.
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