While studying optometry, Annie Yu set her sights on volunteering to help prevent avoidable blindness in developing countries. Now she’s realising the importance of managing myopia progression in her local area.
Since graduating in 2018, I have been fortunate to work at 1001 Optometry, a family-owned practice where I often see patients with conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, myopic maculopathy, retinal tears, and detachment.
People with high myopia have higher risks of developing these sight-threatening diseases, and yet there is very little awareness in our communities about how we can prevent them.
With this in mind, I have become increasingly interested in myopia management. Knowing the implications of uncontrolled myopia, I find it profoundly meaningful when educating patients and their parents about strategies to reduce the risks of progression.
Since myopia treatment involves regular appointments, I have been able to develop deep and lasting relationships with patients and their families. Being able to see the positive impact on their eye health has been incredibly rewarding.
From a personal and professional perspective, myopia management is also challenging because there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and ongoing research is continually leading to new knowledge. This makes it critical to constantly upskill by reading, attending courses, and engaging with other eye care professionals. I thoroughly enjoy sharing interesting cases with my colleagues so that we can help each other remain critically engaged.
One case I shared was a mother of three children who came to our practice having acquired a collection of atropine eye drops in different dosages: 0.01%, 0.05%, and 0.125% from overseas. According to the mother, the practitioner in her home country prescribed atropine to slow down myopia onset in children with hyperopia lower than +0.75 dioptres or when both parents were high myopes. From my perspective, more research is critical to determine the effectiveness of different regimens.
In my quest to remain up-to-date with the latest approaches to myopia management, last year I completed an Australian College of Optometry Advanced Certificate course on children’s vision.
This course provided a valuable opportunity to work closely with paediatric ophthalmologists in both private and corporate eye clinics. The experience allowed me to build up a robust local network of health professionals who I can now draw on to co-manage complex cases. There are also many resources available online, for example, organisations including the Brien Holden Vision Institute, mivision, and Myopia Profile, all help optometrists acquire deep knowledge of, and diverse perspectives on, myopia control.
In addition to formal learning, I also like exploring the world and connecting with professionals overseas. This year I attended an international clinical conference in Manchester, held by the British Contact Lens Association. It was an incredible experience to meet optometrists and vision scientists from various countries. We exchanged our ideas of best practices and our experiences.
The conference also provided me with insights into the latest innovations in myopia control. By attending the research talks, skills workshops, and discussion with industry representatives, I attained a micro-credential in advanced contact lenses.
I was proud to be an optometrist from Australia – practitioners in the United Kingdom recognise us as leaders in providing advanced myopia control with purpose designed spectacles, contact lenses, and low-dose atropine eye drops. Their acknowledgment highlighted the valuable contribution that we, as optometrists, make to individuals and the community.
Currently, my main focus is on mastering my skills in orthokeratology. Thankfully, I have experienced mentors to guide my professional development, including Dr Margaret Lam, Francis Chen, and Stephen Kwong. I also have the support of a fantastic practice team.
Looking ahead, I hope I can extend my expertise in optometry, and particularly myopia control, to children with special needs because these children often face unique challenges when it comes to eye care. They might not have a chance to receive early intervention or treatment during critical periods of development. Language barriers, anxiety, and inattention can make traditional eye examinations difficult. Working with these children requires a team effort that goes beyond the optometrist.
I believe that by working together, both globally and in our local neighborhoods, we can create a future where more people have the opportunity to enjoy clear and healthy vision, and as a consequence, an improved quality of life.
Annie Yu is an optometrist at 1001 Optical Hurstville, in Sydney