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Dark Adaptation: Now a Cornerstone of Optometric Education

By Drue Bahajak, OD, Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, 2016

The AdaptDx® was first released in 2014—just one year before my rotations began, so I was fortunate that the device was used in both of the practices where I did my rotations. For me, dark adaptation is just the normal thing to do. In fact, I currently work at a location with not just one but four dark adaptometers. Because of this, I often wonder how my own path compares to this next generation of students. Here’s what faculty from three top schools have to say about dark adaptation in their programs today.


Early Diagnosis is Essential

Q: Is dark adaptation an established part of the curriculum at your university?

Dr. Lighthizer: We’ve had the AdaptDx at our university for three years and it’s become a cornerstone of our AMD education in the classroom and in the clinic.

Dr. Pizzimenti: We’ve also had AdaptDx in our university eye clinic for three years. To ensure that our future optometrists know how to diagnose and monitor AMD at the highest standard of care, we include both structural and functional instruction. Rod-mediated dark adaptometry is an essential part of that standard.

Dr. Rodman: We’re working hard to make sure that our graduates are well versed in dark adaptation, but this wasn’t always the case. I recognize the contrast when I speak at CE meetings because my own generation of colleagues didn’t get this education the way today’s students are.

Dr. Lighthizer: It can be a bit amusing when students occasionally don’t appreciate the history of how, in the not-too-distant past, the patients that we now treat and monitor more closely would have been managed much differently. For example, we might have written off complaints about difficulty seeing at night, chalking it up to a natural part of the aging process. Now we know better. These complaints require attention because they could be an early symptom of macular degeneration. Unlike most of their professors, today’s students graduate already knowing this.

Dr. Pizzimenti: This just goes to show you how important education is after you graduate. We all need to take lifelong learning seriously and stay on top of evolving standards of care.

Dr. Rodman: I agree. We can’t rely on tomorrow’s optometrists to adopt modern protocols simply because the option wasn’t available to us when we graduated.

Dr. Lighthizer: Dark adaptometry is definitely a best practice. This technology has worked its way into the curriculum in much the same way that OCT did several years back. It began in the classroom and grew from there. Students are taught to rely on certain technologies and then they find it inconceivable to practice without them. That was true of OCT and I see the same thing happening with dark adaptation -especially now that there’s a convenient, portable headset option. When the AdaptDx Pro® was introduced, dark adaptation went from being a nice-to-have to being a must-have for many doctors.

Dr. Pizzimenti: It comes down to awareness. There was a time when many optometrists were unaware that this technology existed and that it was so easy to use, interpret and act upon. Now that we’re past that hump, the expectations shift.

Dr. Rodman: There’s also a tremendous amount of enthusiasm alongside this growing awareness. Every time I lecture on dark adaptation, I get a slew of emails asking to visit my clinic. I think what shocks my colleagues the most is that the learning curve is so miniscule, which makes this technology a lot easier to embrace compared to some of the other big breakthroughs that we’ve incorporated in the past. The inclusion of Theia™, the on-board AI technician helps remove human error and inconsistency in the testing itself.

Dr. Lighthizer: it’s true: we’re so much better off today than we were 20 years ago thanks to the technology that we have. Information is power and the more information that we can have, the better it is for our patients.


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Practical Implementation of Dark Adaptation in Optometric Practice

This resource goes beyond explaining why dark adaptation is so important in optometric practice. Having already established the reasons why functional testing is essential, this year’s report outlines the practical strategies for how to make routine testing a reality in your own eye care practice.


About the Author

In May 2016, Dr. Bahajak graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, obtaining her Doctor of Optometry degree. Then in October 2016, Dr. Bahajak joined Kirman Eye. She specializes in primary eye care, ocular disease, and contact lenses. Currently, Dr. Bahajak is a member of the Central Pennsylvania Optometric Society, Pennsylvania Optometric Association, American Optometric Association, and Harrisburg Young Professionals. 

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