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.…