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SUN Education Series Part III: Present sunglasses as important… but still fun

September 27, 2012

Providing patients with the appropriate protective outdoor eyewear is the ultimate goal of the SUN Initiative. The education series launched by the AOA and the Opticians Association of America (OAA), with support from Luxottica and The Vision Council, is designed to help avert a predicted upsurge in eye conditions related to sight-threatening ultraviolet (UV) and high-energy visible (HEV) light.

It should also be the most “fun” part of a three-step process recommended under the SUN program, according to Mark Mattison-Shupnick, John Lahr O.D., and Gail Israel of Luxottica USA, the instructors for the new “SUN Education Series Part III – Present” course, introduced this month on the AOA’s EyeLearn™ continuing education website.

Educating patients on the serious eye health dangers posed by exposure to UV and HEV – from cataracts, to macular degeneration, to cancer – can be a sobering experience, instructors noted in EyeLearn’s “SUN Part 1 – Protect” online course, which was launched in June as part of the SUN Initiative.

Learning that agencies such as the World Health Organization are predicting a virtual epidemic of such eye problems over the coming decades is no more pleasant, the instructors noted.

Most patients will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the risks for such serious eye problems can be greatly reduced simply through the use of sunglasses — a product most people like and enjoy wearing, instructors noted in EyeLearn’s “SUN Education Series Part 2 — Prescribe” course. That course, introduced in July, emphasizes that optometrists should strongly recommend, and even formally prescribe, protective outdoor eyewear to patients whenever appropriate.

However, the most effective way to ensure patients actually obtain and use that protective outdoor eyewear is by helping them to understand that outdoor eyewear is an important eye protection device as well as appealing to their sense of fashion and fun, SUN Provide course instructors maintained.

That means optometrists and staff working together to counsel patients on sunglass options and offering an adequate selection of properly displayed outdoor eyewear in the dispensary, the course emphasizes.

To help determine the protective outdoor eyewear needs of patients, the SUN Present course recommends use in the practice of questionnaires on sun protection needs (see chart).

The course offers advice for paraoptometrics on conducting conversations with patients on sun protection.

Dispensary staff should be prepared to explain the importance of 100 percent UV and HEV protection, noting that not all sunglasses offer such protection. They should be prepared to explain to patients the importance of properly fitting, wrap-around designs that can more completely shield the eyes, as well as how different colors of outdoor lenses filter light in different ways.

Lens colors should be chosen based on the activity and sport for which the outdoor eyewear will be used.

In recommending outdoor eyewear, the course notes, dispensary staff should be aware that preferences for color and density vary among wearer age groups. They should also be able to explain the importance of impact-resistant outdoor eyewear.

The course offers a variety of hints on making the sunglasses in the practice dispensaries as attractive to potential purchasers as those featured in fashion boutiques.

In many cases, simply keeping displays fully stocked can be important to the overall image of the dispensary and the practice, the course notes.

Outdoor eyewear frames can be nearly as important as lenses, the course also notes.

Dispensaries should include a selection of special-fit frames for those with smaller nose bridges (Asians, blacks, or children) because the typically larger sun frames will otherwise rest on their cheeks, moving up and down when the wearer smiles.

For seniors, when side glare is a big problem, wider temples may help but also block peripheral vision. This may require narrower temples, the course notes.

In providing outdoor eyewear for children, dispensary staff should be prepared to explain the benefits of the eyewear to mothers, who generally make health care purchasing decisions, the course emphasizes.

Practice staff should be aware that vision insurance plans often cover the cost of prescription sunglasses, the course notes.

Developing an adequate outdoor eyewear dispensary as well as staff expertise on outdoor eyewear dispensing can reap practice management benefits, the course emphasizes.

In addition to purchasing additional eyewear when they come in for an eye examination, patients who are highly satisfied with their protective outdoor eyewear may become “clients” of the practice – a term used to describe consistent customers of high-end retailers – who return to the practice to purchase outdoor eyewear between examinations, marketing research shows.

All SUN Education Series courses are COPE-approved for continuing education credit.

The SUN Education Series, like all AOA EyeLearn™ courses, is available free of charge to AOA members. Certificates will be issued to those who successfully complete all three of the series modules.

AOA members can access the EyeLearn™ education portal at www.aoa.org/eyelearn.

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