New Diagnostics Featured at Optometrists' Meeting

Laird Harrison

November 03, 2016

ANAHEIM, California — Advances in imaging and diagnosis using optical coherence tomography (OCT) angiography, first approved last year by the US Food and Drug Administration, will be in the spotlight here at the American Academy of Optometry (AAOpt) 2016 annual conference.

OCT angiography is providing more opportunities to image the blood vessels in the eye, said Andrew Mick, OD, from the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California, who is scientific program chair of the meeting.

The technology could be helpful in the detection of diabetic retinopathy because OCT angiography could find microaneurysms not apparent on clinical examination, he told Medscape Medical News.

Data on this use will be presented by Jessica Steen, OD, from the College of Optometry at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"There are obviously screening implications to this," Dr Mick pointed out.

A related study of corneal confocal microscopy will examine whether corneal epithelial cells and sub-basal nerve fibers are affected by diabetes. The study, presented by Cirous Dehghani, PhD, from the Anterior Eye Lab at the School of Optometry and Vision Science, Queensland University of Technology, in Brisbane, Australia, will also examine whether corneal nerve abnormalities are related to each other or to modifiable risk factors.

Advances in OCT, as well as in fundus autofluorescence, will also provide much of the substance in a review of geographic atrophy, which will be presented by Mark Dunbar, OD, from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. The study also looks at investigational drugs, new methods for assessing visual function, better classification of patients, and the role of genetics.

"There will have to be a paradigm shift, from screening for the transition from dry to wet macular degeneration toward screening for some dry macular degeneration that will be amenable to some of these new treatments," Dr Mick explained.

Also being presented at the meeting, by William Sponsel, MD, from the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry in San Antonio, Texas, are some findings with simultaneous bilateral visual field testing, which is helping clarify the way the central nervous system changes in response to glaucoma.

In a change from the normal plenary session, Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Outliers, and other bestsellers, will deliver the keynote speech.

"In the past we've always had speakers in the eye field. This time we're trying something different by having an author," meeting chair Joseph Shovlin, OD, from the Northeastern Eye Institute in Scranton, Pennsylvania, told Medscape Medical News.

Also slightly different this year will be results from a study on a trend that could shake up optometry: the sale of eyewear over the Internet. Data from patient focus groups on the cost, convenience, quality, fitting, and ethics of online eyewear purchases will be presented by Alisa Sivak, MA (Ed), from the Centre for Contact Lens Research at the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science in Ontario, Canada.

But optometrists do a lot more than prescribe eyewear. In fact, they might be able to help patients quit smoking tobacco, according to a study that will be presented by Stanley Hatch, OD, from Eye Care for the Adirondacks in Plattsburgh, New York.

The meeting will not ignore trends in the education of optometrists. A survey of academic optometrists will reveal their opinions about the effects of electronic medical records on their ability to teach.

In the continuing education portion of the meeting, hot topics will include myopia control, a multidisciplinary approach to concussion, the management of anterior segment diseases, and emerging trends in treatment and diagnosis of dry eye, Dr Shovlin reported. "If we can slow down or control myopia, it would be a big thing," he said.

For the second year, a symposium will feature a panel of speakers from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the AAOpt. Members of the panel, which appeared at the AAO meeting last month, are Loretta Szczotka-Flynn, OD, PhD; Elmer Tu, MD; Thomas Lietman, MD; Deborah Jacobs, MD; Fiona Stapleton, PhD; and Suzanne Fleiszig, OD, PhD.

Dr Mick has disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Dr Shovlin is a consultant for Allergan, Alcon, Shire, and Johnson & Johnson.

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