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Friday / July 12.
HomeminewsDebate Builds Over Optoms Treating Glaucoma

Debate Builds Over Optoms Treating Glaucoma

A submission by the Optometry Board of Australia requesting optometrists be able to independently treat patients with chronic glaucoma, or those at risk of developing the disease, has sparked strong debate within the eye care sector.

The Royal Australia New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) objected to the proposal, saying patients would be at risk if they were to be treated for glaucoma by optometrists.

In a statement issued by RANZCO, President Dr. Stephen Best said, “Glaucoma is a serious medical condition and optometrists simply have no medical training or appreciation of adverse systemic interactions.

“An optometrist has typically studied an undergraduate degree for four or five years, after which time they can prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor, who has, in addition to their medical degree undertaken five years of specialist training in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the eye and visual system,” said Dr. Best. “In the course of their specialist training only, an ophthalmologist will typically have seen more than 7,000 ophthalmic patients”.

In a statement issued by RANZCO…patients would be at risk if they were to be treated for glaucoma by optometrists

OAA President Andrew Harris said the assumption that optometrists are not qualified to diagnose and treat glaucoma is wrong. “While optometrists do indeed prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses, for many decades optometrists have been trained in the detection, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of eye disease and have held prescribing rights for the treatment of eye disease since 1996 onwards in various jurisdictions with the last state WA, several years ago,” he said.

“Further, the reforms proposed in the draft Guidelines are for optometrists therapeutically qualified – these optometrists have undergone intensive training in therapeutics and are required to undertake half of their CPD annually on therapeutic related topics.”

Dr. Best said complicated atypical glaucoma cases, requiring urgent medical treatment, can occur and “optometrists cannot be expected to detect the subtle differences and presentations of these serious conditions”.

However according to Mr. Harris, optometrists are trained to recognise atypical glaucoma cases that “require urgent attention and to respond appropriately including referral to ophthalmology”.

Geoff Pollard, National Executive Officer of Glaucoma Australia, has also entered the debate, saying he hopes to see a resolution that will allow optometrists and ophthalmologists working together.

“Glaucoma Australia supports an integrated eye care system, with optometrists, ophthalmologists and other eye health providers working in a collaborative way and less ‘red tape’ would increase the likelihood of eye care providers being able to focus on the need of the patient and to organise for initial and ongoing patient care, for the betterment of those patients,” he said.

While all parties agree more needs to be done to create awareness of, diagnose and treat glaucoma, at this stage, neither concurs on the best way forward.