Optometrists have a duty of care to inform and educate patients on the importance of protecting their eyes from the sun… it’s a responsibility that must be taken seriously… the upside is that doing so will help you build a stronger business.
Australia has some of the highest UV levels in the world. At least two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. The major cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.1 Eye damage by exposure to UV is well documented in causing photo conjunctivitis, photo keratitis, macular degeneration, cataracts, pterygiums and skin cancer of the conjunctiva and skin surrounding the eye.
Added to this is photosensitivity caused by ingesting, inhaling or coming into skin contact with photosensitising substances, which include industrial chemicals, medications, plants and some essential
oils and fragrances.
All this means we have a duty of care to make the exposure to UV and resultant eye damage an essential part of an eye examination. Additionally, as optometrists we have a duty of care to inform and educate patients about the importance of protecting their eyes from harmful exposure to UV rays.
…are you making UV and prescription sunglass wear part of the everyday conversation with your patients and
if not what not?
I find that an effective way to start this conversation is with a series of questions when taking down a patient’s initial history or during the eye examination. This typically opens the way to a discussion on eye damage caused by UV exposure.
Examples of probing questions that can start the conversation are:
1. What sports or hobbies are undertaken?
2. Is there any sensitivity to light or glare?
3. How much time is spent outdoors?
4. Are sunglasses worn presently? If yes…
- How often?
- For what activities?
- Are these polarised?
- Is the lens colour appropriate for the use intended?
Although this is not a comprehensive list, the aim here is to establish a need. Then you’ll be able to start a conversation about providing a solution to prevent harmful UV radiation, reduce photosensitivity and improve visual function.
Typically the needs identified would fall into the categories outlined in the tables below.
While this is not a comprehensive list, it does provide a quick easy guide… and a place for you to start.
Determine Patient Activity
When determining a solution, one also needs to take into account the importance of any particular activities to the patient. For example:
1. Do they drive all day for a living?
2. Are they passionate about their sport?
3. Is the photosensitivity causing a high degree of annoyance?
The more significant the need, the greater the premium with which a solution can be offered. For example a person which loves their tennis, cycling or golf is more likely to be open to having a premium specialist prescription lens tint provided by a company, such as Maui Jim, Oakley or Nike to enhance their sporting activity.
Given that we are the skin cancer capital of the world, the question is are you making UV and prescription sunglass wear part of the everyday conversation with your patients… and if not, why not?
Jim Papas is an optometrist with extensive experience in contact lenses. He’s also an expert in retail, business strategy and brand development. He has won multiple awards for customer service and commercial innovation, including the 2015 Australian Retail Innovator of the Year award.
1. Australian Radiation Protection & Nuclear Safety Agency.