German optometrists have scored a partial victory in the German Constitutional Court, which cancelled last Aug. 7 a previous decision by the Supreme Federal Court that had banned them on Dec. 10, 1998 from carrying out measurements of intraocular pressure and the visual field.

The Consitutional Court has asked the Federal Court to review the case, judging that its previous verdict would have created a prejudice for the optometrists' rights of the optometrists to exercise their profession. The Constitutional Court also found that the advantages for the general public would be far greater than the dangers denounced by the eye specialists if optometrists were allowed to carry out the tests, resulting in greater awareness and information about their eyesight.

It's a borderline case, but the court decision is bound to get more business for the optical stores, while improving the relation between the optometrist and the eye doctor. The optometrist is allowed to test a patient's eyesight and the visual field of a healthy eye. If there is any sign of disease or illness, the technician then hands the patient over to a specialist eye doctor to make a final diagnosis of glaucoma and other diseases, and to cure them. The technician is not authorized to intervene if the problem goes beyond the surface of the eye. He is not allowed to remove a splinter lodged in the ocular tissue, but can remove a foreign body at the surface of the eye.

Intraocular pressure is measured with a tonometer, but the optometrist is authorized to use only models that don't come in contact with the eye, determining the pressure based on the sensitivity of the eyeball's resistance to air.Instruments used to measure the visual field or perimetry don't come into contact with the eye either. They enable the optometrist to see how the retina reacts to light stimuli.