Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist August 2013 Contents Australian Pharmacist August 2013 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 73
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY NEWS
Vision impairment facts for
About half a million Australians have
vision impairment from preventable or
treatable eye conditions. If that figure
surprises you, a few facts can help
Pharmacy assistants have a unique role,
interacting daily with a wide range of
people. Eye health might not always be
at the forefront of your mind, or theirs,
but by being aware of some simple
facts you might be able to help identify
when a patient would benefit from a
comprehensive eye exam which could
even save their sight.
Fact: Five conditions account for
approximately 80% of vision loss
Age related macular degeneration
(AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss
in Australia. This degenerative condition
affects the central vision needed for
seeing objects clearly and for common
everyday tasks such as reading and
driving. A major risk for AMD is smoking.
Glaucoma results in permanent damage
to the optic nerve due to pressure in the
eye. Loss of peripheral vision can be the
first sign. People with a family history of
glaucoma are four times more likely to
develop the disease.
Cataract is a clouding of the lens inside
the eye and can be likened to looking
through a dirty window. Increased
sensitivity to glare especially when
driving at night may be a sign. If we all
Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading
cause of vision loss in Australia.
lived long enough, we would develop
cataracts. Risks include smoking and UV.
Diabetic retinopathy affects the small
blood vessels of the retina. It remains
one of the leading causes of vision loss
despite availability of effective treatment.
A staggering 98% of vision loss from
this condition could be avoided by early
detection and treatment.
Refractive error means the eye does
not bend light correctly, resulting in
blurred vision: 'long' or 'short' sightedness,
astigmatism and presbyopia. It is
often easily resolved with glasses or
Fact: Many sight-threatening eye
conditions may have no symptoms
until damage has already occurred.
A regular, comprehensive eye
examination is the best way to
Vision loss from AMD often progresses
slowly and goes unnoticed.
Peripheral vision loss in glaucoma often
goes unnoticed -- 50% of people with
glaucoma are not aware that they have
The risk of diabetic retinopathy increases
over time. People who have had
diabetes for more than 15 years are at a
substantively increased risk. If a patient
with diabetes asks about ready-made
readers, this could be a sign something
more is wrong. Ask if they're aware
diabetes can cause serious eye problems.
Suggest they visit their optometrist for a
comprehensive diabetes eye exam.
Fact: When it comes to many eye
conditions, the earlier you act, the
better the outcome.
When a middle-aged patient comments
that they are 'having trouble reading',
it's easy to assume they are just 'getting to
that age'. But even mild vision symptoms
can indicate something more sinister.
They could need more than magnifying
readers. Suggest to your client that a
visit to an optometrist might be in order.
They're entitled to a full examination,
under Medicare, every 24 months. As the
risks of developing eye disease increases
significantly over the age of 40, everyone
at this age or over, whether they currently
wear glasses or not, should really take
advantage of this. Changes in vision as
noticed in an eye exam can also indicate
other general health concerns such as
hypertension need treatment.
Fact: Optometrists can help with a lot
of common problems. All optometrists
are now trained to prescribe Schedule
4 topical medicines for the eye.
People often think if they have red or
itchy eyes that there is nothing they
can do: 'it's just that time of the year'.
If a patient is complaining of recurrent
allergy, dry eye, or infection that isn't
being helped by repeated use of over-
the-counter preparations -- a closer look
might be in order. Optometrists have the
equipment to examine the interior of the
eye thoroughly to get the right diagnosis.
They can refer to GPs or ophthalmologists
Fact: Red eyes can be dangerous.
Some red eyes are an emergency.
Be especially aware if the eye is
aggravated, or the redness is sudden and
only in one eye. Ask if the patient wears
contact lenses. They could be at risk of a
Pharmacy assistants are in a great
position to share these facts. They should
think about it when:
• Administering or discussing
medications for glaucoma, diabetes,
blood pressure and cholesterol.
• Discussing red or dry eyes.
• Talking to patients about giving
• Advising or processing the sale of
readymade glasses or 'readers'
• Engaging in social conversations that
link to eye health such as family history,
eye injuries from working around the
home or playing sport and young
children struggling to learn how to read
or complaints about headaches.
The Optometrists Association Australia
(Victoria) is a professional association
representing 98% of registered
optometrists in the state of Victoria.
For more information about eye health
or to find a local optometrist, visit www.
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