Internationally acclaimed speakers from around the world presented seminars recently at the 13th International Cornea and Contact Lens Conference, held in Sydney, on the latest contact lens cutting edge research as well as a series on one of the hottest topics in optometry: ‘myopia control’.
A record number of more than 400 optometry delegates, including attendees from the United Kingdom, United States, Fiji and Brazil, descended on Sheraton on the Park for the 13th International Cornea and Contact lens Conference (ICCCL). This bi-annual event, which is the official conference of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia (CCLSA), featured presentations from forty four international and local speakers and has been hailed as the most successful Congress since the Society’s inception in 1962.
An extensive trade exhibition accompanied the conference program, allowing delegates the opportunity to chat with industry representatives and to trial the latest optometric equipment. The event attracted significant corporate support, with Diamond level sponsorship provided by Bausch + Lomb and CIBA Vision, and Gold level sponsorship by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care. The attendance of US speaker Patrick Caroline was jointly facilitated by the Contact Lens Centre and Paragon CRT.
The official gala dinner was held on the Saturday evening at the Waterfront Restaurant on The Rocks, where delegate enjoyed sensational views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The dinner was an ideal opportunity for delegates to mingle with speakers and industry representatives; for those wanting to demonstrate their dancing skills, a live band and dance floor were the perfect combination.
The conference clearly achieved its theme ‘A Vision for the Future’ and showed delegates that the field of contact lenses is one of the most exciting and innovative areas of optometric practice
Lifetime Achievement Awards
During the evening the first inaugural CCLSA Lifetime Achievement Awards were awarded to Don Noack and Tony Phillips in recognition of outstanding achievements in contact lens practice, research and/or design. Kate Johnson was also inducted as a Fellow of the CCLSA, a prestigious level of membership that recognises specialisation within the field of contact lenses.
The Congress was officially opened by the CCLSA President, Luke Arundel, who presented the prestigious Kenneth W Bell Medal to Professor Debbie Sweeney in recognition of her outstanding contribution to corneal and contact lens research and education. Professor Sweeney is Director of Research at the College of Health and Science at the University of Western Sydney. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, with her research interests centring on the biomedical aspects of the cornea and contact lens development. In her acceptance address, Professor Sweeney provided an insight into her personal journey from her research as a PhD student to her current position, as well as a first-hand recollection into the history and development of silicone hydrogel lenses.
The conference program catered for delegates with a full spectrum of contact lens expertise and interest areas.
In keeping with the theme of ‘A Vision for the Future’, lectures were presented by expert clinicians and researchers, who covered topics that ranged from contact lens compliance to the latest innovations in contact lens research.
Early sessions focussed on aspects of contact lens materials, the management of dry eye and methods for maximising contact lens comfort. Contact lens correction for presbyopia was also a featured topic, with presentations including how to effectively communicate with patients (Helen Gleave), clinical pearls for successful presbyopic fitting (Kathy Dumbleton) and some interesting case studies from local practitioners.
A surgical-based session included a presentation by Melbourne corneal specialist Dr. Grant Snibson who provided an update on collagen cross-linking treatment for the management of keratoconus. Professor Fiona Stapleton also gave an interesting lecture on the risks of vision loss in contact lens wear and following laser refractive surgery.
Lectures on advanced contact lens fitting for keratoconus, post-penetrating keratoplasty and aphakic children were given by some of Australia’s best known practitioners, including John Mountford, Tony Phillips and Richard Lindsay. International perspectives on specialist contact lens fitting were also provided by Lynne Speedwell and Dr Loretta Szczotska-Flynn, who discussed the application of RGPs and mini-scleral lenses for abnormal ocular conditions and eye disease in paediatric and adult patients.
A particularly enjoyable afternoon workshop-style presentation, chaired by Russell Lowe, looked at the role of leadership, communication and business skills in successful contact lens practice. Introduced with the well-known ‘Business Time’ song from Flight of the Conchords, this session allowed delegates the opportunity to pose questions to a panel of Australian optometrists who offered their personal advice into how to operate a successful contact lens practice. Jenny Saunders from the medical marketing agency, ‘Live the Life’ delivered an insightful presentation into enhancing communication skills as a contact lens practitioner, with discussions related to the impact of internet-based contact lens sales, means of structuring professional fees and maximising opportunities within the practice’s existing patient base.
A feature of the Congress was a series of lectures dedicated to one of the hottest current topics in optometry: ‘myopia control’. U.S. keynote speaker Professor Earl Smith gave a fascinating overview into our current understanding of the genesis of myopia, in particular the environmental and physiological factors that are recognised to influence refractive error development. A major focus of the session was the presentation of evidence that orthokeratology reduces, and may even fully arrest, progressive childhood myopia. Associate Professor Helen Swarbrick and Dr. Laura Downie presented independent clinical data that demonstrate a profound reduction in the rate of myopic progression in children undergoing orthokeratology treatment, compared with those who received traditional day-time contact lens or spectacle wear corrections. Data were also presented for the recently released Zeiss “MyoVision” spectacle lens (Dr. Padmaja Sankaridurg) and dual-focus (bifocal) soft contact lenses (Dr. Nicola Anstice). Without doubt, this will continue to be an area of particular interest to optometrists, as further evidence evolves regarding the benefit of these innovations in lens design for young myopic patients.
Eulogy for RGPs
Another memorable presentation was the ‘Eulogy for rigid contact lenses’ delivered by Professor Nathan Efron. In 1998, Professor Efron made the controversial prediction that rigid gas permeable lenses (RGPs) would be virtually obsolete by the year 2010. Being the ‘prediction year’, it was an opportune moment for reflection on whether we may indeed allow their souls to ‘rest in peace’. Attracting laughs, gasps and murmurs from the audience, in this obituary Professor Efron offered his thoughts on ten potential reasons for the apparent worldwide demise of rigid lens prescribing. However his final farewell to RGPs was met with some playful rebuttal from expert RGP luminaries Patrick Caroline and John Mountford, who both assured us that despite being 2010, the RGP was alive and well.
The final session of the Congress was devoted to predicting the future of contact lens design and materials. Canadian Kathy Dumbleton discussed the pursuit for the ‘perfect contact lens’, a lens that can deliver clear vision, consistent performance, lack of adverse physiological response and unsurpassed comfort, as the ongoing ‘holy grail’ of lens design. Professor Mark Willcox from the Brien Holden Vision Institute described the increasing interest in the concept of ‘Nutraceuticals’, involving the release of vitamins and anti-oxidants from contact lenses. In particular, there is currently research into the potential advantage of Vitamin A, E and Lutein supplementation for progressive eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.
The ICCLC closed with a final opportunity for Professor Efron to look into his ‘contact lens crystal ball’. Prof. Efron proposed that by the year 2020, all soft lenses would be silicone hydrogels with the contact lens market almost entirely dominated by the daily disposable modality. Contact lens cleaning solutions were forecast to become a historic artefact, and the evolution of ‘value added technologies’ (such as drug release systems and intra-ocular-pressure-detecting devices) were predicted to be common-place in the future.
The conference clearly achieved its theme ‘A Vision for the Future’ and showed delegates that the field of contact lenses is one of the most exciting and innovative areas of optometric practice. With the 13th ICCLC being the most successful meeting of the CCLSA to date, the next Congress promises to be even bigger and better; it is expected to be held in Sydney in October 2012.
For further information on the CCLSA and ICCLC go to the CCLSA website: www.cclsa.org.au
Dr. Laura Downie BOptom, PhD(Melb), PGCertOcTher, DipMus(Prac), AMusA, is an optometrist who specialises in contact lenses. She has been published in scientific journals and is a clinical instructor to undergraduate students.