Kelowna, April 30, 2010 – Thompson-Okanagan optometrists 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.
Winfield resident Norman Ferris was 64 when he was his optometrist detected glaucoma. Ferris wore glasses, had no symptoms and no family history of eye disease. During a routine eye exam, Lake Country optometrist Dr. Stephanie Strawn detected signs of glaucoma, and referred Norman to an ophthalmologist. “I credit my range of vision to the early diagnosis,” says Ferris.
When Vernon resident Gordon Patterson was 65 he went for a routine eye exam. During that visit, his optometrist detected that he had a torn retina in his right eye. Patterson was surprised by the finding because he had no symptoms. He was rushed to Kamloops the next day to have laser surgery, which saved his vision. “If I had received a sight-test, they never would have found the tear and I could have lost sight in my right eye,” says Patterson.
Jacqui Clark, 59, also a Winfield patient of Dr. Strawn, went in for her routine eye exam in mid-April 2010. She had no symptoms whatsoever. Strawn immediately detected early stage age-related macular degeneration. “I feel thankful I saw an optometrist for an eye exam, or I would have never known about my degeneration until it was too late to do anything about it,” says Clark.
All of these Thompson-Okanagan 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 glaucoma, retinal detachment and macular degeneration are just three examples of the kinds of eye diseases that might go unchecked without comprehensive eye exams. 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 keeps saying that there is no strong evidence that the proposed regulation changes will put citizens of British Columbia at risk – when clearly, government just chooses to ignore the evidence,” says Dr. John Kemp of Tutt Street Optometry Clinic in Kelowna. “We’re not forcing people to get eye exams – but when a patient has a vision change and goes to get new glasses or contact lenses, they need to be examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to determine the cause of that vision change and to be sure they don’t have any underlying eye disease. Enabling them to buy glasses from a computerized machine and walk away with undiagnosed eye disease or even other serious conditions like brain tumours is just not right.”
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 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
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Visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com for more information, including:
For more information contact:
Crystal Reinitz or Rhonda Trenholm, media relations, 604.623.3007
Okanagan patient case studies for reference or interview:
· Winfield resident: Norman Ferris, 64, has glaucoma. Norman had a prescription for eye glasses which he kept refilling. He finally went to see his optometrist after three years to get his prescription checked. He had no symptoms, no cause for worry, and is not aware of any family eye health issues. Optometrist Dr. Stephanie Strawn detected symptoms of glaucoma and referred him to an ophthalmologist for diagnosis. The ophthalmologist commented that Norman’s range of vision was not as bad as he thought that it might be, which Norman said is credited to the early diagnosis. They are now exploring long-term treatment.
· Summerland resident: Sheri Mahovlic, 44, has glaucoma. Mahovlic was in a car accident during which she hit her head on the dash and following her accident She began seeing “halos.” She went to see optometrist Dr. Grant Goods, who suspected she may have glaucoma because her intraocular pressures were high. She believes the trauma of the accident hastened the onset of her symptoms, which would not have been detected she had not seen her optometrist. She is doing well now with continuing treatment.
· Vernon resident: Gordon Patterson, 68, has worn glasses since he was nine years old and has regularly visited his optometrist. When he was 65, he went for a routine eye exam. During that visit, his optometrist Dr. Meghan Ashton detected that he had a torn retina. Patterson was surprised by the finding because he had no symptoms. He was rushed to Kamloops the next day to have laser surgery, which was effective. He could have lost sight in his right eye any moment, due to a fall or jarring movement and the detection and surgery saved his sight.
· Salmon Arm resident: Mike Sebela, 65, got his first pair of glasses two years ago. His current set broke and his warranty had expired. His son suggested ordering a new set online. Although Sebela had confirmed his prescription over the phone, the first pair he received was blurry. He sent them back. A second pair was also blurry. He took them to his optometrist who discovered that the prescription used for his glasses was the exact opposite of his actual prescription – ie: far-sighted prescription instead of near-sighted. He sent his glasses back and has since gotten a new pair from his optometrist. This is one example of why online providers should be required to verify prescriptions with the prescriber.
· Kelowna resident: Beverly Ryder, 57, went in for her routine eye exam, and optometrist Dr. Josh Bernot detected signs of glaucoma in her right eye. She had no visual symptoms whatsoever and was surprised by the discovery. She is currently waiting to see a specialist now for further tests. Dr. Bernot said: “Had this patient chosen to have a ‘sight test’ performed instead of an eye health exam, it is highly unlikely that any of her symptoms would have alerted the person performing that test to refer her for further evaluation by an eye care professional. Her glaucoma, a potentially blinding eye disease, and the second most common cause of blindness worldwide, would have gone undetected. It is only through routine screenings, early detection and timely intervention that we are able to prevent the permanent vision loss associated with this devastating eye disease.”
· Winfield resident: Jacqui Clark, 59, went in for her routine eye exam in mid-April. She had no symptoms whatsoever. Optometrist Stephanie Strawn immediately detected early stage age-related macular degeneration. Clark feels she would have never known about her degeneration until it was too late to do anything about it. Clark feels thankful she went in for a complete eye exam. Two years ago she had a sight test conducted, which she feels had no ability to detect her macular degeneration.
Thompson-Okanagan optometrists speaking out:
Dr. Lawrence A. MacAulay and Dr. Lisa Scharf – Armstrong Optometry Clinic
Dr. Deane T. Gerry – Chase Optometric Centre
Dr. Karla R. Reimer and Dr. Stephanie A Strawn – Lake Country Optometry Clinic
Dr. Ann M. Byard, Dr. Donald W. Mathieson, Dr. Rajesh Narang and Dr. Nicolas A. Von Dehn – Nicola Eye Care; Dr. Giovanni Cinel, Dr. Leonard W. Demarchi, Dr. Michael D. Noble and Dr. Joshua M. Weston – Summit Eyecare Centre; Dr. Eugene A. Ebata and Dr. Steo Ebata – Dr. E.A. Ebata; Dr. Deane T. Gerry and Dr. David K. Hampton – Dr. D. Gerry Optometric Corp.; Dr. Clara Malinsky – IRIS – Summit Shopping Centre; Dr. Mario L. Pozza, Dr. Robbin Shamenski and Dr. Lindsay C. Williston – Kamloops Family Vision Clinic; Dr. Ruth C. Saunders – Dr. R. Saunders Optometrist; Dr. Edward T. Takahashi – Takahashi Optometry Centre; Dr. Barry R. Weaver
Dr. Josh Bernot and Dr. Mathew Broschak – Orchard Park Optometry; Dr. David W. Grimes, Dr. Stacey Lynn Grimes, Dr. John L. Kemp, Dr. Louise M. Myshak, Dr. Patricia Rychjohn, Dr. Kimberly D. Smith, and Dr. Greg K. Wallace – Tutt Street Optometry Clinic; Dr. Joel T. Casey –Kelowna Laser Vision; Dr. Calvin B. Kettner and Dr. Brent A. Westfall – iSight Optometry; Dr. Paul I. Clark – IRIS – Orchard Park Mall; Dr. Noel A. Erhard – Dougall Road Vision Care Optometrists; Dr. Michael M. Kwasnek; Dr. Manley M. March – Lifetime Eyecare Optometry Centre; Dr. Scott Percival – Mission Creek Optometry
Dr. Tammy L. Crawford, Dr. Amanda Erickson, Dr. Dale J. Liddicoat, Dr. Stewart F. McLeod, Dr. John Twidale – Waterfront Eyecare Centre; Dr. Robert J. Zak – Apex Eyecare
Dr. Noel A. Erhardt and Dr. Stephanie A Strawn – Westbank Vision Care Optometrists