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    Patients and optometrists urge Vancouver Island residents to speak out about threats to eye health

    Victoria, April 22, 2010 – Vancouver Island optometrists and their 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 based on computerized “sight tests”; this eliminates the eye health examination that allows optometrists and ophthalmologists to detect serious eye diseases or overall health problems that the patient is unaware of.

    Victoria resident Barb Fraser, 47, wants other British Columbians to know that optometrists save lives and provide vital services that must be offered to all eye patients.

    “I had gone to see my optometrist for a routine check-up and was stunned to learn that the headaches I’d been experiencing were actually signs of a brain tumor,” says Fraser. “My optometrist actually saved my life.”

    Black Creek resident Johanna Jalbert, 52, can vouch for the importance of an eye exam. “I went in for a regular eye exam, but was shocked to hear that I had a serious eye condition requiring surgery,” Jalbert says. “Thankfully, it was caught early so my prognosis is good.”

    Courtenay’s Sandra Caillet, 47, went in for a routine eye exam and was surprised when her optometrist discovered the signs of glaucoma. “I had no symptoms at all when my optometrist told me she suspected glaucoma,” she remembers. “As an artist I depend on my eyesight for my livelihood. I am fortunate that my condition was caught early enough that my vision was saved.”

    All of these Vancouver Island residents would have been eligible for “sight tests” because they are between the ages of 19-65, had no symptoms that would disqualify them from a sight test, and had no family history of their respective health problems.

    The B.C. Association of Optometrists says glaucoma and tumours are just two examples of the kinds of eye diseases and overall health conditions that might go unchecked without comprehensive eye exams. Many serious eye diseases can have no obvious early warning signs and often remain undetected until vision loss occurs.

    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 comprehensive 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.

    “Buyer Beware is not the right way to provide health services and products,” says Dr. Stephen Taylor of Mayfair Optometric Clinic in Victoria. “We expect our government to protect us. No other government in North America is putting people at risk this way.”

    Optometrists, their patients, and concerned health professionals across British Columbia are speaking out to convince Health Minister Falcon to reconsider the changes he is planning to make. Join them in reporting your stories of disease found in a routine eye exam, and expressing your concern that fewer people will have disease detected and treated early. 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 a year.
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    Vancouver Island optometrists in support of speaking out:

    Dr. Brent Morrison – South Island Optometry Centres
    Dr. Amanda Weinerman – Cadboro Bay Optometry Clinic
    Dr. Paul G. Neumann – Oak Bay Optometry
    Dr. Judith LeRoy- Family Eyecare Centre
    Dr. Karen Sahota – Victoria Insight Optometry
    Dr. Elaine Kerr- Willow Point Optometry
    Dr. Arvinder Sahota – Victoria Insight Optometry
    Dr. Steven Taylor- Mayfair Optometric Clinic
    Dr. Kevin Youck – Victoria Vision & Eye Care Centre
    Dr. Alexander Kennedy- Mosaic Vision Care
    Dr. Heidi Webster – Iris Optometry
    Dr. Kim Tsang – Willow Point Optometry
    Dr. David Myrfield – Vision Arts
    Dr. Lyle Myrfield – Willow Point Optometry
    Dr. Johnathan Lam – Vision Arts
    Dr. Michael Kellam – Vision Arts
    Dr. Ruby Tse – Vision Arts
    Dr. Tanya Flood- Willow Point Optometry
    Dr. Vallerie Gunn – Vision Arts
    Dr. Jeff Ferron- Willow Point Optometry
    Dr. Meagan Saccucci- Willow Point Optometry
    Dr. Paul Geneau- Eaglepoint Vision Centre
    Dr. Dave Dowe- Vision Works Optometry
    Dr. Hanif Paroo- IRIS Discovery Harbour
    Dr. April Eryou – Valley Vision Optometry
    Dr. Shaun Golemba – Valley Vision Optometry
    Dr. Allan Ball- Iris Optometry
    Dr. Justin Epstein- Iris Optometry
    Dr. Ghislaine Lauzon- Campbell River Optometry Centre
    Dr. Allison Chang- Iris Optometry
    Dr. Anita Voisin- Chemainus Family Eyecare
    Dr. Trevor Miranda- Chemainus Family Eyecare
    Dr. Carla Clarke- Chemainus Family Eyecare

    Some of the other information available includes:

    § Proposed changes to regulations will put eye health and safety of B.C. public at risk

    § University of Waterloo – letter to Minister Falcon, with scientific evidence against the regulation changes

    § CNIB letter concern re: B.C. regulations

    § Canadian Journal of Optometry article: Prevalence of Asymptomatic Eye Disease

    § Sight-testing Backgrounder and Timeline

    § Eye Exams and Sight Tests: Understanding the Difference

    § Who’s Who in Eye Care? Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians

    § Common Eye Diseases and Disorders

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