Dr Nathan Walker has joined Outlook Eye Specialists. Dr Walker is a Gold Coast ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) who underwent world-class Vitreoretinal Surgery fellowship training in Oxford (Oxford Eye Hospital) and London (Moorfields Eye Hospital) following his general ophthalmology training in Queensland.
He has extensive experience in vitrectomy surgery for routine and complex retinal conditions (such as retinal detachment, macular hole, and epiretinal membrane) as well as complex cataract surgery and ocular trauma. He also manages common medical retinal conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vascular disease.
- 94% of vision loss in Aboriginal communities is preventable or treatable1
- Diabetes related blindness in Aboriginal Australians is 14 times higher than in non-Indigenous populations1
These alarming statistics motivated action over the last five years 2010-2015, instigating collaborative work through a program funded by the Vision Cooperative Research Centre (Vision CRC). Brien Holden Vision Institute has been lead collaborator for the Vision CRC research project,Models of Vision Care Delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.
WHAT DID WE SET OUT TO ACHIEVE?
Building on current evidence and guidelines for Indigenous eye care for Aboriginal Australians, the team worked collaboratively with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to identify the most practical and workable solutions to improve access and uptake of eye care in ‘real-life’ settings.
This project has been successful in developing useful and practical solutions to achieve sustainable improvements in eye care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. For further information about the project achievements, please follow the live link to the final summary report: Vision for Every Australian, Everywhere: Eye care for Indigenous Australia:http://www.brienholdenvision.org/visioncrc/vision_for_australia.pdf
The solutions and approaches developed during the project have shown in working demonstration that they are practical, translatable and scalable. One of the leading solutions developed during the project is the Eye and Vision Care Toolkit which is now live on our website on this link:https://academy.brienholdenvision.org/browse/resources/courses/eye-toolkit
The impact measured within just two years of health workers following the Toolkit were really encouraging. By ‘Toolkit’, we mean a practical and simple set of approaches health services can use to help improve eye care for the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities with whom they work. This includes:
- Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) toolsRegional eye care planning tools
- Education and training resources to aid skill levels
- Guidance on understanding patient and community perspectives
Selina Madeleine, Global Communications Manager, Public Health, +61 414 071 149, firstname.lastname@example.org
1: Taylor, HR, J Xie, S Fox, RA Dunn, AL Arnold and JE Keeffe. ‘The Prevalence and Causes of Vision Loss in Indigenous Australians: The National Indigenous Eye Health Survey’. Medical Journal of Australia 192, (2010): 312–318.
Optometry Australia, the peak professional body for optometrists, and Glaucoma Australia, the peak support group for people and families affected by glaucoma, are committed to reducing the visual impact of glaucoma through community information and education.
“Glaucoma is often called the silent thief of sight and it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Many people who develop glaucoma won’t realise that they have it until too late and we want to reverse this trend,” Glaucoma Australia President Ron Spithill OAM, said.
Optometry Australia’s CEO Genevieve Quilty said: “It is critical that every Australian has regular eye examinations throughout life so that diseases such as glaucoma can be detected early and suitable treatment programs put in place. Optometrists play a key role in this”.
Ms Quilty said that she was delighted that Optometry Australia and Glaucoma Australia have committed to collaborating and putting joint programs in place to try to prevent this insidious eye disease further infiltrating the lives of Australians.
The two bodies have signed a binding Memorandum of Understanding designed to promote their critical roles in glaucoma detection and management within the community. The MOU is further designed to strengthen the relationship between the two organisations.
Tony Gibson OAM, from Eyecare Plus (Mitcham Victoria) said that the “MOU represents an important step for optometrists in recognising the profession’s crucial role in working with Glaucoma Australia for the betterment of glaucoma patients”.
Both organisations have agreed to collaborate on the implementation of patient education systems, to advocate for economically sustainable support for the early detection of the condition and for the collaborative care of people with glaucoma.
An estimated 300,000 Australians have glaucoma, but only half have been diagnosed. For the other 150,000 they are living with the risk of progressive vision loss leading to possible blindness.
With the total cost economic cost of glaucoma expected to rise to $43 billion by 2025 with the aging of the Australian population, glaucoma doesn’t discriminate.
Optometrists have warned parents not to consider laser pointers as toys after a Tasmanian teenager caused permanent damage to his eyes by looking into one.
Hobart optometrist Ben Armitage received a call on Monday from a GP asking him to investigate why the 14-year-old boy was having vision problems.
- 14-year-old loses 75 per cent of vision after looking into laser pointer
- Damage is irreversible
- Parents warned that laser pointers are not toys
“He came into see me and on the Friday night he’d got hold of a laser pen and unfortunately shined it in his eyes for a very brief period of time,” he said.
“Unfortunately he’s managed to cause himself permanent damage to the back of his eye.”
Photographs of the boy’s eyes show laser burns to his each of his retinas.
His vision is down to about 25 per cent of what we call 20/20 vision and unfortunately at this stage it’s unlikely that that vision is going to recover.Optometrist Ben Armitage
“The back of his eyes on both sides are showing laser burns, so he’s actually managed to burn the retina at the back of the eye near an area called the macular,” Mr Armitage said.
“Unfortunately that’s the area where your detailed central vision takes place and therefore it’s had somewhat of an exaggerated effect on how much sight he’s lost.”
The boy said he did not feel any pain at the time, but the impact on his vision would have been almost immediate.
“His vision is down to about 25 per cent of what we call 20/20 vision and unfortunately at this stage it’s unlikely that that vision is going to recover,” Mr Armitage said.
There may be some slight improvement once swelling reduces.
“The laser burns are basically areas where he’s not going to be able to see ever again,” Mr Armitage added.
“We’re hoping that as the swelling goes down the size of those burns goes down as well and can help restore some vision.”
Damage can not be corrected with glasses
“The way I’d describe it is if you imagine a camera, it’s the sensor or in old school terms the film at the back of the camera that’s been damaged,” Mr Armitage said.
“So you’re also going to have an area of vision, and unfortunately his area of vision is central, that is going to be essentially missing.
“The way the eye works is that the majority of your usable vision is central, including all for example your colour vision, takes place in a very very small area.”
In the lead up to Christmas, Optometry Tasmania has warned parents not to view laser pointers or pens as toys.
Chief executive Geoff Squibb said the boy’s example showed the level of damage that could occur in a brief moment.
“I think we’ve got to realise that the consequence of the high intensity of these lasers can have such serious effect on a person’s vision,” he said.
“If parents purchase or allow their children to have access to these pens they ought to supervise them very, very carefully and, in fact, better off trying to warn them off them because we’ve just seen in this particular case where the future lifestyle of this young person has been seriously affected.”
By Selina Ross
The Brien Holden Vision Institute has launched new Grading Scales that provide optometrists with an easy to use consulting room guide for the monitoring of common contact lens complications, and can be downloaded for free from the Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy website.
The Grading Scales are used as an in-practice reference tool by optometrists and provides a guide for determining the severity and progression of complications such as bulbar redness, limbal redness and corneal staining as well as descriptions and photographs of adverse effects associated with contact lens wear. The easy to use Grading Scales also allows optometrists to make consistent clinical management decisions.
The new Grading Scales can be downloaded for free from the Institute’s education website,academy.brienholdenvision.org. The Academy provides educational support to eye care personnel, optometry students and optometry schools.
The Fred Hollows Foundation today used the occasion of World Sight Day to highlight the critical contribution that Australian aid has made to ending avoidable blindness in our region.
Despite Australian aid being vital to this sight-saving work, funding for avoidable blindness has been cut by the Federal Government.
The Foundation’s Director of Public Affairs Nick Martin called on new Minister for International Development Steven Ciobo to reaffirm his commitment to ending avoidable blindness in our region and working with the eye-health sector to restore funding recently cut from the sector.
The Australian Government, between 2010 and 2014, has supported the screening of almost 840,000 people in the region in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and East Timor, providing almost 440,000 treatment services – including sight restoring surgery.
“Four out of five people who are blind right now in developing countries don’t have to be. They are blind because they live in poverty and cannot access medical care,” Mr Martin said.
“We call on the Australian Government and Minister Ciobo to reaffirm their commitment to ending avoidable blindness, which was a bipartisan position adopted in 2007 by John Howard and Kevin Rudd.
“Australia has been a leader in blindness prevention since the time of Fred Hollows. In more recent times through the Australian Government’s Avoidable Blindness Initiative, Australia has shown it can play a significant role in restoring sight to thousands in our region.
“The new Government has a real opportunity to make the fight against avoidable blindness a key plank of our aid program over the coming years. Australia could lead the way in changing the lives of millions.”
Since its inception in 1992, The Foundation has restored sight to more than two million people, and we’re continuing to expand our work.
“Fred would be overjoyed that millions of Australians have been inspired to help continue his work. We can restore sight for as little as $25 in some countries,” Mr Martin said.
“Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, in 2014 The Fred Hollows Foundation screened more people and delivered more sight-saving surgery than ever before.
“The Fred Hollows Foundation is extraordinarily active. Working in more than 25 countries, we have a huge reach which is touching the lives of millions of people around the world.
“On World Sight Day we remind Australians that they can help restore sight to people in Australia and around the world.”
In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the Australian College of Optometry will launch “A History of Australian Optometry” written by Professor Emeritus Barry Cole at the ACO National Conference on 24 October.
Professor Emeritus Cole says, “The college has been an important player in the history of optometry over the last 75 years and whilst it has its own chapter, the book tells the story of more than 200 years and features optometric institutions and optometrists Australia wide”.
The new book traces the story from spectacle sellers to sight testing opticians who were fast adopters of the new techniques of refraction based on the breakthroughs in ophthalmic science in the second half of 19th century. The 20th century brought the first Australian optometric associations, legislation to regulate the practice of optometry and rising standards of optometric education that culminated in optometry being taught in universities. New technology expanded the scope of optometric practice in the second half of the 20th century, and the right to use and prescribe therapeutic drugs was won at the close of that century.
Professor Nathan Efron, president of the College, and editor of the book will launch the new publication at a stakeholder event which co-incides with the ACO National Conference.
Professor Nathan Efron has read the book three times and says “Barry Cole’s book brings to life the fascinating story of Australian optometry, warts and all. You will read about the movers and shakers who shaped the profession, often in the face of fierce and acrimonious opposition from organised medicine and sometimes within the ranks of the profession itself. You will learn about the closely-fought political battles for recognition, and about black knights and white knights–those from inside and outside the profession, some who obstructed and others who helped advance the profession. The book took three years of research and writing. It has been meticulously researched, as testified by its 20-page bibliography, but it is an easy read”
Professor Cole, says “I have tried to write an easy-to-read story that explains the what, when and why of the history of optometry and to do so in the context of a changing Australian society and a changing health system. I have tried to paint pictures of those restless and aspirational optometrists who pursued their vision for a better profession and to tell a few of the tales of the quirks of fate that helped them on their way.”
Professor Cole has seen a good deal of the history of optometry up close. He qualified in optometry at the Australian College of Optometry in 1954 and was appointed its first fulltime lecturer in 1958. He was made the head of the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences in the University of Melbourne when it was established in 1973 and was appointed the foundation professor of optometry in the University in 1978. He is now Professor Emeritus in the University of Melbourne.
The book is A4 size and is beautifully presented in colour throughout and copiously illustrated. It is 320 pages and available in softback ($75) and deuxe hardback format ($160).
Following the launch the book can be purchased from the Optometry Australia bookshop (online or in person) at www.optometry.org.au/shoponline.aspx or from the Australian College of Optometry at www.aco.org.au/history-book.
Please contact Arwen Bardsley for further information: email@example.com.
More than 32,000 Indigenous Australians are likely to be blind by 2025 because of treatable eye conditions.
A report from the University of Melbourne said the eyesight of those people could be saved if the Federal Government invested an extra $23 million a year.
The study’s lead author, Professor Hugh Taylor, said evidence suggested Indigenous Australians were not getting the care they needed to see clearly.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children start off with much better vision than non-Indigenous children,” he said.
“By the time they reach the age of 40 and above the average Torres Strait Islander adult has six times as much blindness and over three times as much poor vision.”
The report found Australia could save money in the long term if the Federal Government boosted spending on preventing vision loss among Indigenous people.
The university commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to analyse the Government’s annual $40 million spend on Indigenous eye health.
PwC partner James van Smeerdijk said to eliminate preventable blindness in Indigenous communities, the Government would need to spend an extra $23 million a year for the next 10 years.
“If we can return sight to 32,000 people, that will help a lot of people into the workforce,” he said.
“The additional $23 million a year, or $227 million for 10 years, is only about half a per cent of the health budget.
“I think it’s a pretty modest investment.”
‘Pathway of care like a leaky pipe’
Vision degeneration, cataracts and eyesight problems caused by diabetes are the common causes of blindness in Indigenous communities.
The bacterial eye infection trachoma still spreads in many remote communities, caused by poor hygiene.
In the Northern Territory, the Jimmy Little Foundation was having some success rolling out songs and video about trachoma awareness, but the Federal Government cut all of its funding this year.
The foundation’s chief executive, Buzz Bidstrup, said the funding cuts had eliminated important programs.
“Some really, really important frontline programs and delivery mechanisms are being bypassed for funds that are directed into another bucket, which then become savings,” he said.
Professor Taylor said he was worried that the systems in place would not provide adequate care.
“We’ve looked in detail at the patient’s journey, or the pathway of care, and we’ve said it’s like a leaky pipe,” he said.
“There are lots of cracks where people can just fall through the system.
“So if somebody is referred to get further treatment or a pair of glasses, they actually get it rather than just having the money spent on a wasted visit.”
The university’s Indigenous Eye Health Unit has presented its report to the Department of Health in Canberra.
Approximately one in five Australian children suffers from an undetected vision problem, or requires ongoing assessment. Yet recent Medicare statistics have shown a decline in the per capita use of initial optometric services by children, despite their crucial need for good vision to have the best chance of reaching their full potential.
While in 2011-12 and 2012-13 Medicare figures showed increases in visits by children aged up to 14 to an optometrist, 2013-14 showed decreases for those up to the age of 4. Alarmingly, 2014-15 has continued this trend with a sharp decline in optometric services to children of all ages up to 14, prompting the concern of peak body Optometry Australia.
Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist Luke Arundel said that it is difficult to pinpoint why there has been a decline but urges parents to help reverse this concerning trend. He warns that while some signs of vision problems are obvious, others are hard to identify, and children themselves usually can’t tell there is anything wrong as they assume everyone sees the world as they do.
“This makes it crucial for children to have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and then regular visits as they progress through primary and secondary school, as part of their general health regime,” Mr Arundel said.
Issues such as an increase in ‘screen time’, with many children spending more time indoors on smartphones, tablets and computers has been implicated in an increase in children with myopia (short sightedness) in recent years.
Mr Arundel said that this makes eye examinations at an early age more important than ever.
In the lead up to World Sight Day on 8 October, Optometry Australia is encouraging parents to look out for signs of vision problems, and take their children to an optometrist for an examination.
Some signs of vision problems in children can include:
- Noticeable tilting or turning of the head when the child is looking at something
- Frequent blinking or rubbing of the eyes
- Red or watery eyes
- Difficulty reading, such as skipping and confusing words, and holding a book very close while reading
- Complaints of headaches and blurred or double vision
- Squinting or having difficulty recognising things or people in the distance
- One eye turning in or out while the other points straight ahead
World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment.
For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist visit theOptometry Australia website.
- Trinity Scarf, Optometry Australia – 0413 581 769 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kerry I’Anson, Optometry Australia – 0419 004 920 or email@example.com
About Optometry Australia
You rely on them from the moment you wake up to when you turn off the lights at night. But are you really giving your eyes the care they deserve? We talked to Deeba Chaudri, OD, a New York City-based optometrist with LensCrafters, about her patients’ biggest bloopers when it comes to taking care of their baby blues (or browns, greens, or hazels).
Here’s what not to do to make sure your vision stays healthy well into your golden years.
Sleeping in contact lenses
There are two types of contacts that are FDA-approved for overnight wear, but Chaudri says even those can be risky. In fact, an American Academy of Ophthalmology study revealed that the risk of developing a corneal ulcer is 10 to 15 times greater in extended-wear contact lens users than those who only wear their contacts during the day. And don’t even think about sleeping in any other type of contact lens. “You’re depriving your corneas of oxygen, and that’s a great way to cause infection and encourage bacteria to grow,” Chaudri says.
It’s fine to take a 20-minute nap in your contacts, she says, but it’s safer to take them out beforehand—just in case you oversleep! If you do wake up to realize you’re still sporting your lenses, don’t try to take them out right away; if your eyes are dried out, you could actually pull the top layer of your cornea away with them. Instead, wait 20 to 30 minutes and lubricate with artificial tears before you remove the contacts. Then stick to glasses for the rest of the day.
Touching and rubbing your eyes
Whether you wear contacts or not, you’re asking for trouble by unnecessary poking and rubbing your eyes. “Sometimes your eyes itch and you have to rub, but it’s best to keep the lid closed and only touch the outside of the eye,” Chaudri says. Rubbing too hard can also lead to broken blood vessels and inflammation.
Another reason to keep your hands off? Your eyes are protected by mucous membranes—moist tissue that can easily collect dirt and germs—so they’re a great place for bacteria to grow. “If you shake someone’s hand and then you rub your eyes, you’re transmitting those germs and there’s a good chance you can catch whatever cold he’s got.”
Not getting annual eye exams
“A lot of first-time patients tell me ‘I haven’t had an eye exam in 12 years because my vision was 20/20 the last time I was checked,’” Chaudri says. Vision changes aren’t even the most important reason you should still see an eye doc every year, she says. “It’s about getting your overall eye health checked out: There are no pain receptors behind the eye, so if you have a broken blood vessel or a tumor back there, you would otherwise not know it until it starts to interfere with your vision, or worse.”
Staring at devices all day (and night)
Electronic screens, like those on our computers, tablets, and smartphones, emit blue light, which some eye doctors believe to be as harmful as the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Plus, focusing on anything for hours on end can cause eye strain and headaches, Chaudri says.
“If I told you to run around Manhattan and not stop for hours, your calves would be pretty sore afterward, wouldn’t they? Think about what your eyes are going through when you don’t take a break from your computer all day,” she says. Instead, follow the 20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes you look at a screen, take a 20-second break to look into the distance, refocus your eyes on something else, and make a conscious effort to blink—you may not have been doing enough of it before!
Applying eyeliner to your waterline
Even though makeup artists often swear by putting liner on the inside of your lower lashes, Chaudri says it’s actually quite risky. “When you put liner inside your eye, you’re mixing it with your tears,” she explains. If you’re wearing contacts, your lenses then get coated in tiny makeup particles, which can deprive your eyes of oxygen. And even if you’re not wearing contacts, those makeup particles can also be carrying germs that can cause infection.
Liquid liners are especially dangerous, she adds, since the applicator tip sits in a tube that can harbor bacteria.Soft pencils are safer since they are continuously being worn down and a new “tip” is exposed, but she still recommends applying them outside the eye only.
Sleeping in your makeup
Hitting the sack without washing your face can do more than leave mascara stains on your pillow; it can also clog the glands around your peepers and lead to irritated skin, pimples, and even styes—painful, raised bumps that can appear on or around the eyelids.
False lashes are a no-no in Chaudri’s book, too. “If you’re sleeping in them and rubbing them, that glue can get into your cornea and lead to major inflammation.”
Using expired solution, lenses, or drops
There’s nothing wrong with saving a slightly-past-its-prime bottle of contact lens solution, right? Actually, there could be. “These solutions have cleansers that kill bacteria on your lenses, so you want to make sure all of those ingredients are still doing their job,” Chaudri says.
The same thing goes for the lenses themselves, which sit in a sterile solution that can break down over time. Artificial tears and prescription eye drops also have expiration dates that you should pay close attention to, as well. And definitely don’t rinse your contact case or store contacts in any liquid that’s not sterile, like tap or distilled water; both have been associated with Acanthamoeba keratitis, a drug-resistant corneal infection.
Relying on redness-reducing drops
“My biggest pet peeve is the overuse of redness-reducing eye drops,” Chaudri says. The kinds you buy in the drugstore contain vasoconstrictors, which shrink blood vessels and temporarily make your eyes appear less red. “But they also contain preservatives and other chemicals that can make your problem even worse in the long run, and it’s only a matter of time before you experience a rebound effect.”
If your eyes are constantly red or irritated, it’s important to see an eye doctor who can get to the root of your problem, Chaudri says. He or she can recommend an over-the-counter product (like a moisturizing “artificial tears” drop) or suggest other forms of treatment.
Not wearing sunglasses year-round
“A lot of people think sunglasses are only for the summer, or that they’re only for fashion purposes,” Chaudri says. “But wearing them in the winter can be even more important because the sun reflects off the snow.”
Failing to wear proper UV protection can result in corneal burns, skin cancer on the eyelids, and visible spots on the whites of the eyes. Make sure your glasses provide protection against UVA and UVB rays, advises Chaudri, and wear them whenever you’re out in the sun.