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Optometry and contact lens practice in South Africa is alive and well.

Despite an economy which is showing signs of strain, the profession is still vibrant and is generally practiced at a level that is accepted worldwide. We share many similarities with Optometry in the USA in terms of challenges and practice modalities. There is a mix of Independents and Corporate practice models, as in the USA, but practice ownership is restricted to registered Optometrists. We are perhaps a decade or two behind in getting therapeutics accepted for Optometrists in SA, but I’m pleased to say the first batch of Optometrists to pass the Therapeutics course are currently busy doing their practical hours under supervision in state hospitals.

The Contact Lens Society of South Africa

The Contact Lens Society of SA, which was founded in 1966, and previously held international congresses, has been revitalized and held a successful international congress last week. We were privileged to have Tom Arnold and Jason Jedlicka address us and share their ideas which go a long way to enhancing our knowledge of scleral lens fitting. Their knowledge and expertise add to that gained from a number of other overseas visitors who have visited our shores over the years.

Local practitioners

Local practitioners have been fitting scleral lenses for a number of years and have sourced product from a local laboratory as well as overseas suppliers, particularly in the USA, Australia, and UK. There has been a steady growth of scleral lens fitters who have worked hard at enhancing their skills in this field, making it an accepted modality of contact lens fitting particularly for irregular corneas and dry eyes. As in the rest of the world, soft lenses hold by far the largest market share and there are significantly fewer practitioners that devote their time to rigid corneal lens fitting.

Due to our very dry climate in certain regions of the country, dry eye treatment is receiving a lot of attention and all the new ways of managing “dry eye” are being utilized. Orthokeratology is also practiced by a number of Optometrists and myopia control is another area of contact lens application.

As the Contact Lens Society of SA, we intend maintaining the momentum and enthusiasm of our practitioners in assisting in allowing them to stay at the cutting edge of contact lens practice.

Peter Brauer
Chairman of CL Society of South Africa. Independent private optometric practice in South Africa, specializing in rigid contact lenses. Past President of SA Optometric Association.