News

Coast optometrist has clear vision for the future

One of Australia’s top orthokeratology specialists, based on the Gold Coast, says she pursued optometry for ‘funny reasons’.

“My dad was a magistrate and discouraged me from law, my mum was a teacher and discouraged me from teaching; so that only left health careers in my eyes,” says Celia Bloxsom.

“Being short-sighted myself and visiting optometrists from when I was little, including my aunt who used to be an optometrist, I had a bit of an early insight into the career that I now enjoy practicing every day.”

In March this year Bloxsom took a leap of faith and started her own practice at the Brickworks Centre in Southport. She worked as an optometrist on the Gold Coast for more than a decade before opening Eyeconic Optometry.

She studied at The Queensland University of Technology and is now a supervisor for the contact lens specialty clinic at the university’s school of optometry and vision science. In addition, she is a guest lecturer teaching optometry students about orthokeratology.

Last month she acquired another feather in her already brimming hat and was made a Fellow of the International Academy of Orthokeratology, one of just 10 in Australia and New Zealand to be given this honour.

Bloxsom, who is also the Vice President of the Orthokeratology Society of Oceania, says she undertook a series of rigorous examinations and case studies to make sure she could fit orthokeratology lenses to the highest level.

But what exactly is orthokeratology or ortho-K? Bloxsom explains that it’s a type of contact lens that you wear at night. Interestingly, the shape of the rigid lens moulds the cornea to a new shape that corrects the prescription which means when it’s removed in the morning, you can see without glasses all day.

Ortho-K is a specialised field, you need further training and specialised equipment to be able to practice it and there are only a handful of Gold Coast optometrists who fit these highly-customised lenses.

“These lenses work for people who are short-sighted or long-sighted or have astigmatism,” she says.

“The technology behind the creation of these lenses is awesome, they are so precise in manipulating tear film fluid forces to create moulding on the corneal surface. I love all of the nerdy science behind why they work.

“I initially started to fit the orthokeratology lenses 15 years ago to provide patients an awesome lifestyle benefit, for example those who loved swimming or worked in intense air-conditioning or a construction site and couldn’t tolerate contact lens wear during the day could wear these lenses instead.”

Bloxsom says she and other ortho-K practitioners soon realised that children who wore these rigid lenses to correct short-sightedness didn’t progress or get worse like those who wore glasses or soft contact lenses.

Numerous studies confirmed that wearing ortho-K lenses stopped or slowed kids from getting more short-sighted, unlike glasses and soft contact lenses.

“Rates of short-sightedness have been increasing worldwide; in the US rates of myopia (short-sightedness) have increased from 25 per cent to 42 per cent in 30 years and by 2050 it is predicted that 50 per cent of the population will be short-sighted, doubling what the rate was in 2000,” she says.

“We also know that the more short-sighted you become, there is more risk your eyes will develop cataracts, retinal detachments, macular degeneration and glaucoma.”

Bloxsom says that’s why fitting ortho-K lenses is such an integral part of her practice, she wants to give parents and children not only the best eye care, but the best preventative care to stop issues developing in the future.

Her oldest patient was 90; he was a retired fitter and turner who was fiercely independent but about to lose his driver’s licence. She fitted him with a large diameter rigid contact lens, because the surface of the lens was optically smooth and perfect, unlike the wobbly scarred surface of his cornea.

“My youngest patients who require contact lenses are babies born with cataracts,” she says.

“The cataracts are removed from the eyes when the baby is about four-weeks-old and we start fitting contact lenses from just five weeks of age.

“The earlier we can provide clear vision for these children, the better their chance of achieving 20/20 vision in the future. It’s a daunting time for mum and dad, who are experiencing all of the issues adjusting to parenthood, and we then come along and expect them to insert and remove an infant’s contact lenses.

“But I know how contact lenses helped my life: they took a very shy, studious young girl and gave her confidence. So I love being able to help my patients experience the same lifestyle changes that contact lenses gave to me.”

Bloxsom says she’s found the people on the Gold Coast to be extremely supportive of her new venture as a practice owner and that locals were very proud of their city and their lifestyle.…

News

West Australian researchers shedding light on myopia causes

Researchers at the University of Western Australia are trying to find a possible link between the growing rates of myopia and how sun exposure, time in the classroom and genetics combine to cause it.

Professor David Mackey from the Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science told 720 ABC Perth there was still so much to learn about myopia, or nearsightedness.

“The simplest explanation of myopia is that the focusing power of the eye isn’t matched to the length of the eye,” Professor Mackey said.

“Most people who are short-sighted, their eyeballs are a little bit too long.

“It’s above a natural amount of growth.”

Myopia epidemic sweeping Asia

A study of 20-year-olds in Western Australia found 23 per cent were short-sighted. But in East Asia, rates have been recorded as high as 90 per cent.

“This started in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan and now is spreading to the big cities in China, where up to 90 per cent of the students [entering university] are short-sighted and needing glasses,” Professor Mackey said.

There are genetic factors that predispose a person to myopia.

But previous research has uncovered two environmental factors that appear to be linked to myopia — time spent in education and time spent outdoors.

“If you just do primary school you are less likely to be short-sighted than if you finish high school, than if you finish university, and than if you go to do a post-graduate degree,” he said.

“The other major piece of data that is coming out, and a lot of it came from research in Australia, is the lack of time spent outdoors is a major risk factor.”

Skin cancer vs spectacles

A university study of adults in Busselton, south of Perth, compared the eyesight of people who had had skin cancer with people who had not.

“Clearly people who have had skin cancer spend a lot more time outdoors than those who don’t — and they were half as likely to be myopic,” Professor Mackey said.

“Only 10 per cent of them were short-sighted compared with just over 20 per cent [in those that hadn’t had skin cancer].

“Something about being outdoors is involved in preventing you being myopic. We still haven’t nailed this down and this is part of ongoing research.

“The clear problem that was raised with that Busselton study is that if we tell people to spend more time outdoors, we don’t want to create a new epidemic of skin cancer.”

Myopia can lead to blindness

While myopia itself can be easily corrected by glasses or contact lenses, it can also be a precursor to more serious eye problems.

“The main worry, particularly with the myopia epidemic in East Asia, is that with the eye lengthening it actually stretches important structures — the retina and the optic nerve,” he said.

“That predisposes people to retinal detachment, tears in their macula and they can get tears around the optic nerve, causing glaucoma.

“That can cause permanent blindness.”

Countries affected by the myopia epidemic can expect to see increases in blindness as the population ages, Professor Mackey said.

“That is not reversible, and therefore we need to be preventing myopia to prevent blindness.”

Screens not to blame

And while parents have traditionally warned children not to read in the dark or sit too close to the television, there was no clear evidence to link this behaviour with eye damage, according to Professor Mackey.

“When I started doing my research, everyone blamed the computers and televisions,” he said.

“People now will tell me it’s clearly due to tablet devices, although they have only been around for seven years.…

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