A new poll shows many Canadians are skipping regular eye exams despite the coverage available, raising concerns about the risk of long-term illnesses and complications.
Findings from optical chain Specsavers released on Wednesday revealed that nearly 50% of respondents said they had no intention of using their vision health benefits until the end of the month. year despite coverage by their job or the provincial health authority.
Ignoring your eye health can lead to bigger problems down the road
According to one of two online surveys conducted by Specsavers, one in four Canadians who do not wear glasses have not had an eye exam in more than a decade, including 10% who have never examine their eyes. Each survey included over 1,500 Canadians and was completed in September and November.
The main reasons for not having a regular eye exam every two years were financial (33%) and not complaining of vision problems or symptoms (22%).
Doctors say this is concerning because many eye diseases and disorders can progress without people noticing any changes in their vision and delayed diagnosis risks causing long-term damage.
“Regular routine checkups are really a necessary way to ensure that we catch eye diseases early and are able to treat them at a time when we can produce positive effects,” said Brad Macario, optometrist in British Columbia.
Canadian research shows that 75% of visual impairment can be prevented if detected and treated early enough.
That should be motivation enough for people to get their eyes checked, Macario said.
“If things aren’t caught early enough, we can’t really intervene as effectively as we would have if they (had) had a routine annual checkup,” he told PKBNEWS.
What is a comprehensive eye exam?
Eye exams can begin as early as six months, and the Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that infants and toddlers have their first exam before nine months.
Preschoolers between the ages of two and five should have at least one eye exam, and annual exams are recommended for schoolchildren between the ages of six and 19, as well as those aged 65 and over.
Eye exams should be part of back-to-school routine, experts say
For adults ages 20 to 64, the CAO’s recommendation is every two years.
A comprehensive eye exam not only determines the prescription of eyeglasses or contact lenses, but it also checks the overall health of the eye to determine risk factors for vision loss.
A noninvasive imaging test called optical coherence tomography (OCT) performs a 3D scan of the eye, looking at anatomy and tissue far beyond what the human eye can detect, Macario said.
This test can help detect all types of vision-threatening diseases, he explained.
Eye movements, pressure in the eye, lens, cornea and retina are also checked during routine exams, said Dr. Phil Hooper, president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society.
“All of these aspects are very important in detecting the disease at an early stage if it is present and hopefully more treatable at this stage.”
Risks of skipping eye exams
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many Canadians to delay or forgo their eye exams due to concerns about the spread of the virus, doctors say.
“We had this huge gap where people completely put reviews aside and didn’t really make it a priority,” Macario said.
At first, strict lockdowns limited access to eye care in some jurisdictions. But now more and more people are coming in for a routine checkup, Macario said.
Putting eye exams back on the to-do list: Ophthalmologists see more vision problems in children after increased screen time
Increased screen time during the pandemic has also increased eye problems in children, optometrists say.
A majority (57%) of people surveyed by Specsavers said that worsening vision over time would cause them to increase the frequency with which they had their eyes checked.
But it seems that many wait until they have a problem before taking an exam; a diagnosed condition, unusual vision problems, such as blurring and spotting, and eye pain were other top reasons for having an eye exam.
There’s a “major impact of delaying” screening if you have an underlying condition, such as diabetes, Hooper said.
He said blurred vision can be the result of the development of diabetic retinopathy – an eye disease caused by high blood sugar – as well as macular degeneration – when part of the retina is damaged due to aging – in old people.
The risk of glaucoma, which is loss of peripheral vision, also increases with age and it can go unnoticed because its symptoms don’t show up in the early stage of the disease, Hooper said.
What is age-related macular degeneration and why should older Canadians care?
“If you wait in glaucoma until you have symptoms, you’re already going to be severely weakened from the start,” Hooper told PKBNEWS.
A recent survey by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and the Canadian Association of Optometrists showed that 41% of people experienced or were diagnosed with at least one change in their eye health in the past two years, which would require a full review.
There is also a lack of awareness of eye health and disease among Canadians, according to the report released in October.
Hooper said a broad approach across different forums and a joint effort by provinces and the federal government is needed to get the message out.
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