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    Eye exams a window to your overall health

    Vancouver, May 1, 2008 – The B.C. Association of Optometrists is launching a new television advertising campaign this month to educate British Columbians on the importance of comprehensive eye exams in detecting both eye and general health conditions.

    “Baby boomers are reaching the age now where they have a much greater risk of developing eye conditions and other health issues,” says Vancouver optometrist Dr. Mini Randhawa, who is featured in the new television ad.

    “As an optometrist, I’m concerned not only about your vision, but your eye health and what it can tell me about your overall health. Your eyes can provide the first clues to detecting anything from high cholesterol to diabetes, from high blood pressure to brain tumors,” says Dr. Randhawa.

    The optometry campaign also features three British Columbians: Deborah Twocock, 52, from Vancouver, who was diagnosed with glaucoma and could have gone blind; Jim Bowie, 43, from Courtenay, who learned he has high cholesterol; and Don McNeice, 48, from Sandspit, who found out he has diabetes.

    The campaign, funded in part by Nikon Optical Canada, will run throughout the province in English on Global Television, as well as on PGTV in Prince George, BCI TV in the Okanagan, CFTK in Terrace and Kitimat, CJDC in Dawson Creek, and in Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi on Channel M in Vancouver.

    Deborah Twocock diagnosed with glaucoma
    Twocock, the executive director of Dress for Success, is married and has a 9-year-old daughter. Her optometrist diagnosed Twocock with glaucoma, which can lead to vision loss and blindness if not detected and treated early. Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because there are generally no symptoms until significant damage has occurred. The good news is, if detected, treatments are usually effective in preventing vision loss.

    “The fact that you can be losing your vision and it doesn’t hurt, that’s a bit of a surprise. You would think that you would feel something if you have this threatening, impending vision loss,” says Twocock, who enjoys walks, reading and movies.

    Twocock, who admits she hadn’t had an eye exam for years, made an appointment with an optometrist after a heart attack motivated her to take better care of her overall health. “If I hadn’t had it checked, I probably wouldn’t have noticed until there was significant damage,” says Twocock. “I am just so glad that I went.”

    Jim Bowie learned he has high cholesterol
    If untreated, high serum cholesterol may be associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. For otherwise healthy adults with no family history of heart disease or other risk factors, family doctors don’t typically start testing for high cholesterol until a patient is over 40. However, because Jim Bowie’s optometrist detected cholesterol deposits in his eye when he was only 38, the optometrist sent Jim to his family doctor for tests, detecting his elevated blood cholesterol levels.

    “It was a surprise,” says Bowie, a computer salesman who has a 15-year-old son. “Eyes reveal a lot of info about what’s going on with the body.”

    Luckily for Bowie, he regularly went for comprehensive eye exams, so his otherwise “hidden” risk factor for heart attack and stroke was detected early. Initially, Bowie’s doctor prescribed medication to reduce his cholesterol, but now Bowie is able to manage it through diet and exercise, including Argentinean tango dancing.

    Don McNeice found out he has diabetes
    Diabetes may cause changes in your eyes and vision. High blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in your eye. Diabetes can also cause fluctuations in vision linked to increased risk of serious eye conditions like cataracts and glaucoma.

    McNeice’s optometrist found a cataract, which led to an early diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes by his family doctor in January. McNeice, who runs a marina and enjoys fishing, hiking and snowmobiling, was very thankful – and surprised – that an eye exam led to his early diagnosis.

    “I didn’t know your eyes had that much to do with everything else,” says McNeice. “Like all guys, I don’t like going to the doctor. If I hadn’t gone to an optometrist, I probably wouldn’t have found this out for a number of years because I wasn’t showing any other symptoms.”

    Other health issues and eye problems that can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam include:

    • high blood pressure – a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and other health problems – which may evidence itself through vascular changes or anomalies in the eye.
    • macular degeneration – the leading cause of vision loss as we age, which can result in permanent changes to your central vision.
    • presbyopia – a condition in which the eyes lose their ability to change focus between distant and near objects, resulting in the eventual need for reading glasses for most people.

    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, at three years, before school entry and regularly 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 a B.C. Optometrist near you, visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com.

    Download broadcast quality video (47mb NTSC mov)

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