From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) has expressed concern over rising cases of complications of vision impairment, hence its demand that the capacity of the Optometrist to handle these challenges continues to expand in order to meet up with the burden.

The Association, however, advocated full integration of Optometry services into the health system of Nigeria, stating that such a step is critical to ensure that there are clear routes to the right eye care.

NOA President, Dr Obinna Awiaka, who raised the concerns at an event in Abuja, to mark World Optometry Day, with the theme, “expanding optometry’s role, the time is now”, stressed that integration of Optometry services into the health system of Nigeria is the only way to attain the global eye care goals and targets thereby expanding the roles of the Optometrist.

Dr Awiaka said, “The eye remains one of the greatest creations of God in the human body, hence eye care is a must and a collective responsibility of both caregivers and recipients. Eye health is more than just sight, it is about a vision of the future. Good eye health has a multiplicity of effects, improving education, economic and health outcomes.

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“If the world’s eye care needs were met, the impact would be astounding. The role of the Optometrist as the first point of call in the eye care industry is very strategic. Recognizing and according to Optometrists this role by all stakeholders would go a long way in attaining global eye health targets.”

He made reference to the World Council of Optometry (WCO) which defined Optometry as a healthcare profession that is autonomous, educated and regulated (licensed/registered), and Optometrists are
the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.

Dr Awiaka maintained that the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Registration Board of Nigeria (ODORBN) remains the sole regulatory body for the practice of Optometry in Nigeria.

He said that ODORBN had defined an Optometrist as a health-care professional that specializes in the art and science of vision care and whose scope of practice include; eye examinations to determine refractive errors and other departures from the optimally healthy and visually efficient eye; corrections of refractive errors of binocularity by means of vision training (orthoptics); diagnosis and management of minor ocular infections which do not pose a threat to the integrity of the ocular or visual system; and ocular first aid.

He, thus challenged optometrists to continually develop and make themselves available, and also develop a patient-friendly relationship with good interactive and communication prowess which would, expectedly, enable them to clerk, take a good history and get useful information on the medical and ophthalmic history of the patient, use scientific methods to apply optometric and medical knowledge, and then recommend treatment or professional referral to other medical/health experts as the case may be.