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    Patients and optometrists urge Lower Mainland residents to speak out about threats to eye health

    Vancouver, April 26, 2010 – Lower Mainlandoptometrists and patients are encouraging area residents to speak up and share their personal examples of eye health and overall health problems detected by optometrists at www.facebook.com/speakoutforeyehealth and by writing their MLAs, Minister of Health Services Kevin Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell.

    The call is being made to help fight proposed regulations that would enable opticians to dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses from computerized “sight tests”; this removes the eye health examination that allows optometrists or ophthalmologists to detect if there are underlying eye-health or overall health problems that the patient is not aware of.

    Cindy Marin, 46, from Maple Ridge wants other British Columbians to understand the importance of comprehensive eye exams and what’s at risk if the regulations go forward. Marin’s optometrist discovered a mass at the back of her eye which was later diagnosed as cancer. “I only went for an eye exam to get new glasses,” says Marin. “I wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t had an eye exam with my optometrist. A sight-test would never have caught the cancer.”

    Vancouver resident Dee Jay Randall, 35, says he is happy that he married an optometrist who encouraged him to get regular eye exams. “During a routine visit, I learned that I had a horseshoe retinal tear. I underwent surgery to repair the problem. Later, I was alarmed to discover that 30 per cent of horseshoe tears progress to a retinal detachment which can cause blindness,” says Randall.

    Vancouver resident Lionel Cloutier, 33, learned the value of an eye exam after damaging his eyes with poor quality contact lenses. “I used to reorder my contact lenses over the phone without a second thought,” says Cloutier. “But during an eye exam for a new prescription, I learned the lenses I’d been wearing had caused serious scarring – I’m lucky the problem was discovered so that I didn’t damage my eyes further.”

    All of these Lower Mainland residents would have been eligible for “sight tests” because they are between the ages of 19-65, and had no symptoms or medical history that would disqualify them from a sight test.

    The B.C. Association of Optometrists says cancer and retinal detachment are just two examples of the kinds of eye diseases that might go unchecked without comprehensive eye exams. Other common sight-threatening diseases and conditions include glaucoma and macular degeneration. Eye exams can also detect serious overall health problems, including brain tumours, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

    In fact, a 2008 study by the University of Waterloo found at least one out of every 10 people between the ages of 20 and 64 with no vision problems actually had eye disease or underlying health problems detected during a complete eye exam. If these patients had gone for a “sight test,” their serious conditions would have remained undetected.

    Optometrists also point out that the proposed regulations will permit the online sale of glasses and lenses without the seller having to verify the accuracy of a prescription. This shifts the responsibility for prescription accuracy to the patient instead of the seller or prescriber. It also enables patients to re-order contact lenses on an ongoing basis without their eyes being monitored for complications that can affect up to 40 per cent of contact lens wearers.

    “The government is ignoring how crucial an eye health exam is for a person’s overall health maintenance” says Dr. Mini Randhawa of Eyedentity Eyewear in Vancouver. “Patients cannot be expected to identify health conditions that have no symptoms or to be able to detect if their contact lenses are affecting their eye health.”

    Optometrists and their patients across British Columbia are opening this call-to-action to anyone alarmed by the new regulations: patients who have previously had eye disease or other health problems detected by their optometrist, family members or loved ones, and concerned professionals. Full information on the changes and how to get involved in contacting the government can be found online at http://www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com/ and www.facebook.com/speakoutforeyehealth.

    Optometrists specialize in examining, detecting, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. 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.

    – 30 –

    Visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com for more information, including:


    For more information contact:
    Crystal Reinitz or Rhonda Trenholm, media relations, 604.623.3007

    Lower Mainland patient case studies for reference or interview:

    ·Burnaby resident: Burnaby resident Sharlene Hayek had her first eye exam three years ago when she was 35 years old. She was taking in her children for their eye exams and had scheduled an appointment for herself, too. While Hayek had perfect vision, her optometrist detected glaucoma. No visual symptoms. No family history of glaucoma. “I was very upset and never thought someone my age could have glaucoma. The thought of losing my vision was devastating; however, I was extremely grateful to Dr. Kim for detecting it,” says Hayek. “The glaucoma would have gone undiagnosed for years, until it was affecting my vision. I would have lost the opportunity to slow it down.” After her shocking diagnosis, Sharlene had laser surgery, which has slowed the progression of the disease significantly. “I have encouraged everyone I know to go for a regular eye exam, and as soon as they hear my story, they book an appointment.”

    Chilliwack resident: Gale Brown went to see his optometrist in July 2009 for his regular exam. During the exam, his optometrists noticed a problem with Brown’s peripheral vision and referred him to an ophthalmologist. After examining Brown, the ophthalmologist sent him for a CT scan. His GP gave him the results: a noncancerous brain tumour in the pituitary gland. Brown has since had surgery and is still seeing a specialist to monitor his condition.

    Coquitlam resident: Vienne Lee, 46, thought her eyes were perfectly healthy until a routine exam with local optometrist Dr. Karim Mithani led to a diagnosis of glaucoma. Today, Lee is receiving ongoing treatment and is thankful her condition was caught early enough to avoid permanent vision loss. “I now realize how important your sight is,” says Lee. “Nothing can buy your vision back once you lose it.”

    Port Moody resident: Julie Dalkin, 31, had had migraines all her life. This February she started a new birth control pill and began to have very bad migraines, visual problems, and was hearing her heartbeat in her ears. She went to see her GP who gave her a prescription to help with migraines and told her to stop the birth control. She felt that her eye symptoms were more severe than normal and even though she had 20/20 vision she wanted an eye exam. Her optometrist gave her a thorough exam and felt that Dalkin needed to see a specialist that day. She went to a neuro-ophthalmologist who discovered that the pressure in her brain was twice what it was supposed to be. She spent some time in the hospital and is now in recovery. If the problem hadn’t been detected the risks include: possible stroke, the brain displacement or paralysis.

    Maple Ridge resident: Cindy Marin, 46, was looking to just get a pair of glasses but her optometrist discovered a mass at the back of her eye which was later diagnosed as cancer. With this type of melanoma, patients usually experience no noticeable symptoms until it’s too late. Marin is still receiving radiation and isn’t all clear of the cancer. However, she does credit her optometrist with saving her life.

    Maple Ridge resident: Catherine Cherlenko,64, had been to a sight tester to have her glasses prescription renewed. When she realized she it wasn’t a thorough eye exam, she booked an appointment with her optometrist. During the exam, her optometrist detected a small problem with her retina, and referred her over to a retinal specialist who confirmed that she had a tiny tear in her retina. She was treated with a laser that day to cauterize it to seal it off. If undetected, she would have lost her vision

    New Westminster resident: Andrey Goulitchenko, 25, went in for a routine exam over two years ago, without expecting much. Instead, Goulitchenko was surprised to learn he had all the signs and symptoms of glaucoma. He is currently being monitored as his condition progresses.

    North Vancouver resident: Lesley Daniel, 63, broke her glasses so she went to see her optometrist with the intention of getting a new prescription so that she could buy new glasses. She had a full eye exam and discovered that she had a macular hole in her eye. A week later she saw an ophthalmologist and a short time later had surgery to correct the problem.

    Richmond resident: Cindy Fox, 47, had been seeing her optometrist for years and during her most recent visit, she was diagnosed with acute glaucoma. She had no symptoms that led her to believe she had a problem, however based on the results of her eye exams over the years, her optometrist suspected she could develop the condition and monitored her eyes closely. Her optometrist referred Fox to a specialist who treated her condition with a laser procedure. Fox now knows that she could have gone blind in a short period of time if her condition was not diagnosed when it was and feels confident that her eyes will be healthier in the future because of the diagnosis and speedy procedure.

    Surrey resident: Raj Sahota, 55, was diagnosed with glaucoma at the age of 49, as a result of an annual eye exam. She now receives ongoing treatment and is thankful she narrowly avoided complete vision loss.

    Surrey resident: Gary Loos, 55, went to visit his optometrist because he thought that he needed glasses. He had a complete eye exam which revealed plaque in the blood vessels of his eye. His optometrist referred him to his GP to get a full blood work-up done. The results revealed abnormalities so Loos’ family doctor sent him to see a thyroid specialist. The diagnosis was Hashimoto's thyroiditis a very rare thyroid problem that does not usually affect men. He now goes for regular blood tests, is on medication and is still being treated. Loos was told that if his condition had not been treated that he probably he could have died.

    Surrey resident: Traci O’Flaherty had not been feeling well. She went to see her GP who chalked it up to menopause. Later in the year she went to see her optometrist for her biennial eye exam and mentioned that she had been suffering from headaches. She received a full eye exam which revealed abnormalities. She sent Traci to see an ophthalmologist the next day. The following week O’Flaherty was sent for a CT scan and a spinal tap and soon after was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She feels that seeing her optometrist saved her life.

    Vancouver resident: Robert LeBlanc, 57, went in for a routine biennial eye exam when his optometrist noticed a pin hole in his retina. She referred him to an ophthalmologist who did additional tests and discovered that there a few areas of the retina that were thinning. He had laser treatment to fix the problem. He had no symptoms prior to this visit. If it had not been caught early, there is a risk that the retina would have detached completely causing sight loss in that eye.

    Vancouver resident: Lionel Cloutier, 33, had contacts for a number of years and just continued to reorder them over the phone. While saving money on poor quality lenses, he didn’t know he was damaging his eyes. After moving to Vancouver, he went to an optometrist who required him to get an eye exam to renew his prescription. During his eye exam, it was discovered that he had corneal scarring that was so bad, it was inoperable and irreversible. His vision is has been degraded because of the corneal scarring.

    Vancouver: L.C., 62, has an optometrist for a daughter-in-law and was “gently reminded” to go in for an eye exam and check-up. During the eye exam, her optometrist discovered that L.C.’s peripheral vision was decreasing and she was starting to show the signs of glaucoma – though the patient herself saw no symptoms. The diagnosis was confirmed by an ophthalmologist and was caught early enough that L. C. was able to treat the condition with eye drops and is currently enjoying her 20/20 vision.

    Vancouver resident: Dee Jay Randall’s wife is an optometrist and she encouraged him to get regular eye exams. He went in for a routine exam and it was discovered that he had a horseshoe retinal tear. He was referred to an ophthalmologist and eventually had surgery to repair the problem. At the time, he didn’t think it was a big deal but his wife recently looked it up and discovered that 30 per cent of horseshoe tear cases turn into a retinal detachment which can lead to blindness.


    Lower Mainland optometrists speaking out:


    Abbotsford

    Dr. Blake Bullock, Dr. James Hargrave,
    Dr. Joanne Hankey, Dr. Mary Lou Riederer,

    Dr. Surinder Sahota, and Dr. Garth Webb – Complete Eyecare Optometry;Dr. Zhaomin Si – Valley Laser Eye Centre Clinic.

    Burnaby

    Dr. Mahmood Gilani –Lougheed Mall Optometry;

    Dr. Gordon Lam and Dr. Maria Wang– Westcoast Doctors of Optometry;Dr. Jessica Ng – Burnaby Vision Care Centre; Dr. Susan Seibold – Eyecare at the Mulberry

    Chilliwack

    Dr. Avninder Sahota – Image Optometry

    Coquitlam

    Dr. Gurpreet S. Leekha – Tri-City Optometry;
    Dr. Lloyd Mah – Westwood Eye Doctors;

    Dr. Alan Nicholson –Austin Heights Optometric Clinic; Dr. Hardip Thind; Dr. Herman Shen – Dr. Herman Shen & Associates

    Delta

    Dr. John S. Black, Dr. Angela Hern, Dr. Sandeep Sadhu and Dr. Nixon J. White – Pacific Eye Doctors; Dr. Saida Lalani – Scott Road Eye Clinic

    Langley

    Dr. Charlene Chu and Dr. Indy Gill – WestCoast Doctors of Optometry

    Maple Ridge

    Dr. Alice Lennox – Maple Ridge Eye Care;

    Dr. David C. Lennox – Pacific Eye Doctors

    Dr. Murray Hurlbert- Maple Ridge Eye Care Optometrists

    New Westminster

    Dr. Julie Bae, Dr. Brenda Horner, Dr. Nelly Kim and Dr. Ashifa Nurani and Dr. Shainul Waljee – Family Eyecare of New Westminster


    North Vancouver

    Dr. Antoinette Dumalo and Dr. Tyler Strong – Dr. Dumalo & Associates; Dr. Anthony YC Wong and

    Dr. Cindy Shum – Beautiful Eyes in the CoveOptometry

    Port Coquitlam

    Dr. Larry Chow – Shaughnessy Optometry;

    Dr. Morgan Hughes – Poco Vision Care Optometry;

    Dr. Mike Tansley – Zazzi & Tansley Optometrists

    Richmond

    Dr. Sherman Tung – Dr. Lloyd Ho and Associates Optometry Centre; Dr. Conrad Vetsch – Pacific Eye Doctors; Dr. Cleo Yeh and Dr. Karen Yu – WestCoast Doctors of Optometry

    Surrey

    Dr. Jason Ding – SouthPoint Optometry Clinic;

    Dr. Riley W. Hanberg – Newton Optometry Clinic

    Dr. Sandy Johal – Panorama Optometry

    Dr. John Stuart Jr. – Surrey Eye Care Centre

    Dr. Rick Wong – Dr. Rick Wong Optometric Clinic

    Vancouver

    Dr. Stephanie Brooks – Pacific Eye Doctors Dunbar; Dr. Jessica Chang and Dr. Maxine Law – South Vancouver Optometry; Dr. Corinne Knight – Marpole Optometry Clinic;– South Vancouver Optometry; Dr. Gloria Lee – Oakridge Optometry Clinic;Dr. Vicki J. Lum – Fraser Street Eye Clinic

    Dr. Brad McDougall, Dr. Dawn Reinders and
    Dr. Cindy Wagner –Vancouver Block Optometrists;

    Dr. Mini Randhawa – Eyedentity Eyewear;
    Dr. Tanya M. Short – Archer, Bissonnette and Rea;

    Dr. Vivian Yeung – WestCoast Doctors of Optometry

    White Rock

    Dr. Sally Donaldson – White Rock Optometry Clinic