We all realize that vision starts with our tear film.

It is the first refractive surface that is involved with the eventual focus of light on to the retina. Interest in the impact of the ocular surface on vision and comfort has greatly increased over the past number of years. Initially, we concentrated our concerns upon ocular comfort but we have become far more aware of visual impact that an unstable tear film can have. Optometry has actually taken “ownership” of ocular surface disease and dry eye management. This could not be more apparent when we consider the fact that about 60% of prescriptions written for the relatively new dry eye drug Xiidra is written by optometrists! The numbers written for Restasis are also quite impressive. My discussions with industry folks in this space at national meetings and advisory board meetings all confirm the fact that optometry is the leading profession when it comes to addressing ocular surface disease and dry eye. However, don’t get too comfortable, ophthalmology is catching on! At recent OMD meetings reports are coming out that they need to jump into this huge portion of the eye care industry. Optometry needs to keep its leading position. This can be achieved by staying on top of research and developments in technologies that relate to dry eye and ocular surface disease.

First Annual Ocular Surface Disease Congress

Recently, I was honored to be a co-director of one of the largest continuing education events dedicated to ocular surface disease. The first annual Ocular Surface Disease Congress took place in Chicago to an audience of over 400 ODs. Joining me as co-directors of this event were Drs. Casey Hogan and Jennifer Harthan. These two amazing optometrists were able to get an incredible panel of speakers involved in order to share some of the most current information about the diagnosis and treatment of dry eye and ocular surface disease. Leslie O’Dell, OD, Scott Schachter, OD, Louise Sclafani, OD, John Conto, OD, Laura Periman, MD and Parag Majmudar, MD joined the three of us for a series of rapid-fire presentations that provided a comprehensive review of current thinking in the management of dry eye and ocular surface disease. One of the most wonderful elements of this event was the fact that a significant contribution from the proceeds was given to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. Social responsibility was at the heart of meeting. The responses from attendees confirmed our initial impressions that this area of eye care is of great interest to eye care practitioners. There are already plans in place to create our second meeting in 2019.

Speakers at the 2018 Ocular Surface Disease Congress held in Chicago at the Illinois College of Optometry

It is difficult to attend any large eye care meeting in optometry and not see numbers of courses presented on the topic of dry eye, and these courses are typically filled to capacity with attendees. Like most elements of health care, new technologies and treatment developments are embraced by doctors who are early adapters. These folks will jump at new instrumentation and drugs and will pioneer the field. Typically this group is relatively small in number. Once their efforts are confirmed as valid and awareness extends further into the profession the next group of more conservative practitioners (of far greater numbers) begin to get involved. This is where we are currently in terms of optometry and dry eye/ OSD management. The second wave of ECPs are highly interested in getting involved. The challenge for them is to understand how to incorporate this into their practices. This is also becoming the challenge to both optometric educators and industry. We need to develop programs that can help the average optometrist not only become up to date in the most contemporary aspects of dry eye and OSD management but also in the practical ways in which they can incorporate this “sub-specialty” into their practices.

Next year…

One of the major goals of next year’s Ocular Surface Disease Congress is to bring this type of education into our program. We hope to bring some of the most successful dry eye and ODS leaders in optometry to the meeting as we did this year and to have them share their valuable pearls in order to continue to have optometry lead in this field.