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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 April 2007, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Inside medicine: The optometrist
By Jane Elliott
BBC News, Health reporter

Sonal Rughani
Sonal Rughani
In a series focusing on medical specialisms, Sonal Rughani talks about her work as an optometrist.

An optometrist is concerned with examining eyes, and diagnosing and correcting vision problems using lenses and other optical aids.

The word is taken from the Greek words 'optos' meaning seen or visible and 'metria' meaning measurement.

WHAT IS YOUR JOB?

I work as a consultant optometrist at the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), seeing patients with low vision often who have been registered with varying degrees of sight loss.

I work alongside Social Services as part of an integrated approach.

By providing functional advice and optical aids such as magnifiers, patients can be empowered to be independent despite their visual impairment.

I also work in the Service Development and Research team at RNIB, as a senior advisor, raising the profile of eye health and low vision in the area of the professional and public sector and supporting RNIB campaigns, media and policy.

Additionally, I work as a hospital optometrist for Wycombe and Amersham Hospital in the South Bucks NHS Trust, where I do diabetic retinopathy, paediatric and contact lens clinics.

WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON CONDITION?

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common eye condition affecting the elderly population in the UK.

Macular degeneration
The typical view of a patient with macular degeneration

"Dry" AMD causes a gradual loss of central vision, making it difficult to see detail, read, and recognise faces as shown in the picture above.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye condition, affecting people from the working age.

It can cause irreversible sight loss, although it can be treated if monitored closely.

It is therefore vital that patients attend appointments for diabetic retinopathy screening, and understand the importance of long-term sugar control, which can reduce the risk of developing changes due to diabetes.

WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON PROCEDURE?

Clinics at the RNIB consist of low vision assessments working in a multi disciplinary team.

At the hospital, the most common procedure is screening for diabetic retinopathy.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

A challenging part of working with people with low vision is reconciling their current visual status with their own expectations.

Often patients feel that a stronger pair of glasses will recover their sight, and it is important to listen and address their concerns explaining the nature of their eye condition, and inspire a level of confidence in their daily living skills and hobbies.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST SATISFYING CASE?

Working in a variety of environments, there are so many aspects of my work that I find rewarding, and stimulating.

Optometry is a very rewarding profession, where a pair of spectacles can often enable a person to see dramatically better than they could at the beginning of an eye test.

Listening to a patient and understanding the individual needs of each patient, and use clinical findings to maximise the sight a patient has, in a functional way inspires me to continue developing my appreciation of sight loss.

I really enjoy the part of my work that raises the profile of eye health and the importance of regular sight tests to a range of different ethnic communities.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS SPECIALTY?

I thoroughly enjoy working in a rehabilitative manner and developing clinical skills.

IF YOU HAD YOUR TIME AGAIN WOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR SPECIALTY?

At the current time, I would not change my area of interest and hope it continues to evolve.

WHICH SPECIALITY WOULD YOU HAVE CHOSEN IF NOT YOUR OWN?

I considered studying medicine, and specialising in ophthalmology, however, I feel fortunate to be working with a multi-disciplinary approach, providing a range of different services.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE DEVELOPING IN THE FUTURE?

I hope to continue with low vision clinics at the RNIB, rehabilitating patients with sight loss together with social services.

Visual rehabilitation should form an essential part of any rehabilitative program, and I hope to be involved in culturing multi-disciplinary working with patients with learning disabilities, dementia and stroke.

Targeting ethnic minorities is another element of future work.

Asians are increasingly likely to have type 2 diabetes, and people of African or African/Caribbean origin run a three fold increased risk of developing glaucoma, and therefore, culturally appropriate programmes to raise awareness are vital.

CV - Sonal Rughani
2000: Graduated from University Of Wales, College of Cardiff
2001: Completed pre-registration year, Conquest Hospital, St Leonards-On-Sea, E. Sussex
2002: Started post as senior optometrist at Wycombe Hospital
2003: Joined RNIB as optometrist and service development advisor





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