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    B.C. optometrists can prescribe eye drops for fall allergies

    Vancouver, October 04, 2010 – British Columbians who experience fall allergies are able to get fast, effective, prescriptive treatment from their optometrists.

    Last year, the B.C. government expanded the scope of practice to allow optometrists to prescribe eye drops, which, along with other treatments, can work amazingly well, says optometrist Dr. Gurpreet Leekha, a member of the B.C. Association of Optometrists.

    “The usual culprits for fall allergies are ragweed pollen and leaf mould,” says Dr. Leekha. “Drops provide relief for a host of allergy symptoms from irritated, watery and red eyes to puffy eyelids, itching, mucous discharge and contact lens discomfort.”

    Prescription eye drops can be used to pre-treat allergies, for acute phases of itching, or for extended use during allergy season so contact lenses can continue to be worn comfortably.

    Dr. Leekha says patients should keep in mind that allergy relief can come in many forms, and seeing an optometrist just before or during allergy season is an excellent way to be symptom-free.

    To reduce, avoid and treat eye allergies, the B.C. Association of Optometrists provides these tips:

    1. Be sure you have a correct diagnosis. The first time you experience one or more of the allergy symptoms described, visit your optometrist for a complete exam to rule out “pink eye” or other eye diseases and conditions that could affect your vision.
    2. Identify and avoid. The best way to reduce allergy suffering is to identify what triggers your reaction and limit your exposure. In addition to ragweed pollen and leaf mould, other common triggers include dust, mould, animal dander and, in spring, tree and grass pollen.
    3. Consider pre-treating your allergies. Optometrists recommend anticipating allergy season by annually treating allergies with oral medications or anti-allergy eye drops a week or two before your symptoms usually appear to reduce the intensity and duration of the allergic reaction. Antihistamines and decongestants provide symptomatic relief and often are available without a prescription. Applying a cold wet facecloth can also help reduce itching and swelling.
    4. If you wear contact lenses, switch to daily disposables or wear your glasses. Pollen and dust can stick to the surface of your contact lenses and keep you in close contact with the allergens. Daily disposable contacts ensure you start with a clean, fresh pair every day. Switching to glasses can reduce your exposure, deflecting wind that could be carrying irritants.
    5. Use saline drops and wetting solutions. Saline drops, artificial tears and wetting solutions can help remove irritants from the eye and provide cool relief for itchy eyes. Please note: some eye drops can damage certain contact lenses. Check with your optometrist when seeking allergy relief – they can advise you how to safely use drops and continue wearing contact lenses.
    6. Wash your hands frequently. Irritants don’t just float in the air. They settle on any number of outdoor surfaces you touch. If you’re susceptible to allergies, chances are you may rub your eyes and aggravate the inflammation. So, wash up and try not to rub your eyes.
    7. Clear the air. Invest in air filters for your air conditioner, humidifier or dehumidifier. Don’t forget to regularly change or clean them. Have your home’s air ducts professionally cleaned.
    8. Close the windows and stay inside. Those who experience severe reactions may choose to stay indoors when pollen and mould counts are high.

    Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. Children need to have their eyes examined by six months, three years, before school entry and annually thereafter. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam every two years. People with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year. For more information on eye health, or to locate an optometrist near you, visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com.

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    For more information contact: Mahafrine Petigara, media relations, 604.623.3007