Unlike many animals who rely on their sense of hearing or smell, humans are primarily visually-oriented. This means that the health of our eyes has extreme importance in our ability to live a normal life. Of course, this does not mean that people with conditions like macular degeneration or other eye problems are second-class citizens. On the contrary, they have the capacity to live full lives, albeit with the restrictions one would expect.
Given our reliance on our sense of sight, it is vital that our eyes are healthy and in good working order. To this end, qualified optometrists are able to measure and test the eyes of both children and adults, in order to evaluate eye conditions, refer patients to specialists for further optometric testing, and create calibrated sight aids such as glasses.
Since our sight is so vital to us, optometrists find themselves in the situation where their services are highly regarded and called upon regularly. Anyone interested in studying an optometry and vision science program would certainly be rewarded with a career for life!
In studying optometry, one can expect to explore the following topics:
- Ocular and human biology
- Clinical studies
- Basic science and the scientific method
- Mathematical techniques.
Being a four-year course, optometry and vision science covers a wide range of ocular and biological sciences, but also emphasizes the importance of clinical work and collaborating with other people.
Recognising Vision Problems in Very Young Children
One of the biggest health problems in developing countries such as India is the range of eye diseases that affect children in impoverished areas. Diseases that begin mildly can, without proper clinical treatment, progress to cause serious eye and vision damage, and even blindness. But in many other nations, including Malaysia, identifying eye problems early on in young children can lead to effective treatment and care which prevents any further damage.
One of the biggest problems in assessing eye problems in very young children is that they often cannot tell us what issues they are experiencing. Thus, it is vital to look for a cluster of related issues that could indicate a larger problem or an eye condition that requires treatment. Here are some signs to look for:
- Squinting: While it is perfectly normal to squint in bright light and sunlight, if a child is often squinting even when not exposed to bright light, it could be that they have a vision problem.
- Headaches and migraines: Headaches and migraines are often caused by straining to see something. The child may be too young to express what a headache is, so it is wise to assess this issue over time and carefully assess their body language. Do they shun bright light? Do they cradle their head? Do they pull at their hair in frustration? Are they irritable and having trouble sleeping? These could all be signs of the pain of regular migraines or headaches.
- Clumsiness: Is your child regularly tripping over objects that should be obvious to them? Do they seem unnaturally clumsy? Do they often bump into doors and other furniture? This could be an indication of vision problems.
The importance of ocular sciences cannot be underestimated, given our high dependence on our eyes. There is real value in studying to be an optometrist, and entering this profession could even lead to satisfying and life-changing work in developing countries.