Fourth year Flinders University: Optometry

4th September 2017

Melina D’Agostini

My name is Melina and I am an optometry student in my fourth year of study at Flinders University. I have recently begun the placement phase of the degree, and was lucky enough spend six weeks at Innovative Eye Care at Woodville. It is fantastic to have such a specialised practice as a placement partner with Flinders, allowing students to learn and experience through hands on work with patients.

This has been a great opportunity for me and during my time here I have been exposed to a wide variety of eye problems and, perhaps more importantly, their solutions. I have come to better understand the importance of early management of dry eyes and blepharitis, a frequent cause of ocular discomfort particularly in the older population. On the other end of the spectrum, children’s vision and early detection of visual problems is something that I have found particularly interesting and instructive.

Children can often be unaware of blurred vision until it is noticed by a parent or teacher as they may not know any different. Alternately, the clarity of vision may be not be the issue, but rather the way in which the eyes are working together, which can be a contributing factor to difficulty at school, or a disinterest in reading. A binocular vision assessment is essential to see how the eyes are working together as a team, and also to identify any areas where there may be an issue. Often visual training exercises can be prescribed as an alternative to glasses, aimed at treating the underlying problem and potentially reducing the need for and dependence on glasses.

Refractive error is also an increasingly huge concern for the modern culture we live in, specifically short-sightedness or myopia. Whilst glasses are an easy way of providing clear vision for children with myopia, they do not address the underlying problem or stop the progression of this condition. Treatments such as orthokeratology lenses or atropine eyedrops have been shown to slow myopia progression, and prevention is better than a cure! This means that when the refractive error stabilises (usually around the late teens or early twenties), those who have had treatment for myopia progression will not only have a lower prescription and thinner glasses than they would have otherwise, but will also be at a decreased risk of the serious complications of myopia such as retinal detachment.

It is inspiring to know that in the future I will be able to have an impact in the lives of young children with refractive error and binocular vision difficulties. Managing these issues early in life gives us the best chance for facilitating success during schooling and beyond.