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By Helen Carter

Journalist

Optometrists are needed to take part in a survey to characterise contemporary colour vision practice, and separate research to evaluate CPD effectiveness in optometry.

Researchers from Deakin University and The University of Melbourne are appealing for optometrists to complete a survey to help characterise contemporary colour vision practice in Australia.

Survey findings will aim to help understand aspects of colour vision practice that may benefit from fine tuning of practice guidelines, and survey outcomes will hopefully lead to targetted professional development workshops.

More than four percent of Australians have either congenital or acquired colour vision defects and optometrists play a leading role with the evaluation of these conditions.

Three university-based optometrists and a physician who specialises in occupational colour vision have come together to investigate colour vision practice trends.

They are principal investigator Dr Amanda Douglass and Dr Geoff Sampson from Deakin University’s School of Medicine, and Associate Professor Daryl Guest and physician Dr John Parkes from the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine at The University of Melbourne.

Dr Douglass said there was space for improvement in guidelines for colour vision practice.

‘The idea started when I was at a conference last year with John,’ she said. ‘We agreed that the understanding of colour vision practice at a primary care level is not as well-developed as it could be.

‘We discussed running some development sessions for optometrists and working on updating relevant practice guidelines, but we realised that we first need to better understand the state of play and the importance that optometrists place on this aspect of patient care.

‘We approached Geoff and Daryl and decided to organise a survey because our impressions were entirely anecdotal and would benefit from a stronger evidence-base. The survey involves completing a series of pre-determined option questions aimed to characterise optometrists’ colour vision practice trends and communication strategies once a colour vision defect is detected.

‘While we cannot treat colour vision deficiency, optometrists can help to manage the consequences.’

Advising parents is important and advising teachers may be important

Dr Parkes said: ‘I’m amazed at the number of young men with severe colour vision defects that we see at the Occupational Colour Vision Clinic who have gone right through their schooling and neither their parents nor their teachers realise there is a problem.

‘I think there is a real role for community optometrists here.’

Dr Douglass said early diagnosis was important so children could plan their future. For example, if they had their heart set on being a pilot or a police officer, they could be advised earlier than age 16 of the potential implications for their preferred career path and could be directed to appropriate pathways for a more comprehensive colour vision assessment.

‘Optometrists are well-placed to advise parents of these outcomes and implications,’ she said.

One of the unknowns with colour vision defects is the implications for early education, given that many resources are colour coded. It is not yet established as to whether congenital colour vision defects significantly disadvantage a child in a classroom setting.

There is a clear need for research in this area and it may ultimately be necessary for the profession to engage more strongly with teachers when colour vision defects are diagnosed.

Participation in the survey is voluntary and responses are anonymous. The study has received Deakin University ethics committee approval and completion indicates implied consent to participate. Participants are asked to read the project’s Plain Language Statement before accessing the survey.

Regardless of your level of involvement with colour vision assessment in practice, the research team would appreciate if you would complete the 15-minute survey. Click here to do the colour vision survey.

Smoking and colour vision

On a related matter, a recent study in Psychiatry Research) has found that heavy smokers – those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes daily – have a reduced ability to discriminate contrasts and colours compared to non-smokers.

Findings indicated significant changes in the smokers’ red-green and blue-yellow colour vision, suggesting that consuming substances with neurotoxic chemicals, such as those in cigarettes, may cause overall colour vision loss.

Researchers said their results indicated that excessive use of cigarettes, or chronic exposure to their compounds, affects visual discrimination, supporting the existence of overall deficits in visual processing with tobacco addiction.

This study provides an example of the diversity of colour vision research that is being undertaken internationally and acts as a reminder of how much is still unknown about this complex perceptual area.

Angelica Ly

Angelica Ly

Optometrists needed for effectiveness of CPD research

Optometrists are needed to take part in Australian research investigating the effectiveness of CPD in optometry.

UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science student Sally Alkhawajah is conducting the study which will attempt to measure the effectiveness of CPD in optometry as part of her PhD.

She is conducting the study in collaboration with Michelle Clewett from the Centre for Eye Health. This adaptive learning module was created by Michelle using re-purposed content from a lecture entitled ‘Tumours of the choroid” delivered by Angelica Ly.’

The topic of the CPD is Choroidal Lesions and the researchers will randomise participants to a traditional CPD offering or an interactive CPD offering.

They require 60 participants to be able to demonstrate a difference between the two groups. The teaching is online so they can accept participants nationwide.

The study has received ethics approval; read the plain English statement.

To take part contact Sally at s.alkhawajah@student.unsw.edu.au or call 0403 168 879.

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