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    Penny-pinching boomers dropping eye exams, risking health

    Vancouver, October 07, 2009 – A new survey of baby boomers in B.C. reveals that one in four was less likely to visit their optometrist this year because of economic concerns.

    The B.C. Association of Optometrists commissioned Angus Reid Strategies to conduct a survey of British Columbians ages 45 to 65 years to get insight into their attitudes and habits concerning eye health as part of their Eye Health Month awareness campaign in October.

    Those who were less likely to visit their optometrist this year because of the current economic climate said they couldn’t afford the eye exam or, if they could afford an eye exam, they were concerned they might need new glasses and didn’t want to pay for them right now.

    “Although times are tough, skipping your regular eye exam is gambling with your health – especially if you’re over 40,” warns Dr. Antoinette Dumalo, president of the B.C. Association of Optometrists. “It’s not about whether or not you need reading glasses or an updated prescription. The incidence of serious eye disease increases as we age – and there aren’t always obvious visual symptoms at the early stages. So it’s also about your overall health and preserving your vision for tomorrow.”

    According to the B.C. Association of Optometrists, early detection and treatment of eye health conditions like glaucoma or macular degeneration can be the difference between saving or losing your vision. Eye exams can also help detect overall health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, brain tumours and heart disease. However, about one-quarter of the baby boomers surveyed were unable to name a health condition other than poor vision that can be identified through an eye exam.

    About 62 per cent of respondents said the economic climate had no impact on their likelihood to visit an optometrist, while three per cent of respondents said they were more likely to get an eye exam because they were worried about their job security and wanted to use their benefits while they still had them.

    Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, 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.

    For more information on eye health, visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com.

    Survey Methodology: From September 14 to September 18, 2009, Angus Reid Strategies conducted an online survey among 502 randomly selected British Columbians ages 45 to 65 years old who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 4.4%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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    For more information, please contact:
    Mahafrine Petigara or Rhonda Trenholm, media relations, 604.623.3007


    FACT SHEET: SURVEY OF BABY BOOMERS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

    Survey Design and Methodology
    Conducted by Angus Reid Strategies and sponsored by the B.C. Association of Optometrists, the survey obtained insight into the attitudes and habits of baby boomers in British Columbia concerning their eye health. The survey targeted British Columbians ages 45 to 65 years old. Data was collected through an online questionnaire from September 14 to 18, 2009. A total of 502 individuals completed the survey.

    Impact of the current economic climate

    • 28% are less likely to visit the optometrist this year due to cost concerns related to the downturn: respondents said they couldn’t afford to pay for the eye exam (17%) or if they could afford the eye exam, they were concerned they might need new glasses or contacts and didn’t want to pay for them right now (11%).

    Deteriorating vision with advancing age

    • 83% per cent feel that their vision has deteriorated since they were 40 years old, with
    81% attributing their worsening vision to age.
    • Of those whose vision has deteriorated, 21% have not visited an optometrist, ophthalmologist or doctor.
    • Men are more than twice as likely than women to have done nothing in response to their worsening vision (10% vs 4%). Most changes in vision are related to increased difficulty in reading fine print; 55% of those whose vision has worsened have needed glasses or a change to their existing prescription as a result.
    • 51% believe that every person between the ages of 40 to 50 years will need reading glasses versus 27% who disagreed.
    • Of the respondents who have not visited their optometrist in the past two years, men are significantly more likely to perceive eye exams as unnecessary.

    Eye health a serious matter for baby boomers

    • Of those who reported a decline in their vision since their 40s, 73% have visited an optometrist, and a total of 79% have visited either an optometrist, ophthalmologist or family doctor.
    • Baby boomers tend to have a good sense of how often they should get a comprehensive eye exam, with 62% correctly identifying the recommended frequency of every two years.
    • 81% of respondents have had an eye exam within the past two years.

    Awareness of health conditions identified through an eye exam

    • Unaided, 28% were unable to name a health condition other than poor vision that can be identified through an eye exam.
    • Unaided, glaucoma (38%) and diabetes (34%) had the highest awareness of being detectable through an eye exam; brain tumours/cancer (6%) and high cholesterol (1%) had the lowest.

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    FACT SHEET: EYE HEALTH FOR BABY BOOMERS

    As we get older, our eyes change and the risk of eye disease can increase. That’s why it’s important to have regular eye exams. Eye exams do more than determine if you see well. They are also an important part of overall health. An eye exam can detect a range of eye and general health conditions.

    Eye conditions that affect people as they age:

    Glaucoma
    It is called the “Silent Thief of Sight” because there are generally no symptoms until significant damage has occurred. It can lead to vision loss and blindness if not detected and treated early. The good news is, if detected early, modern treatments are usually effective in preventing vision loss.

    Cataracts
    They occur as the lens inside the eye loses its transparency, resulting in distorted or cloudy vision (the feeling of film over your eyes) and difficulty with night vision.

    Macular degeneration
    It is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over 50, with the risk increasing directly with age. It is a disease that results in distortion and loss of central vision.

    Presbyopia
    It begins between the ages of 40 and 45 when our eyes lose the ability to change focus between near and distant objects. Most people eventually need reading glasses. Drug store reading glasses can provide magnification, but they don’t provide the balance to ensure your eyes work together properly, are not optically ground, and may have induced prism or distortion. Only your B.C. optometrist understands the special demands of presbyopia and can offer specific recommendations to provide clear, comfortable vision at all working distances.

    Low visiondescribes the condition of individuals who have below-normal vision, even after the most accurate conventional prescription available. They may have been born with low vision, or they may have had their vision impaired by disease or injury. Low vision can include a host of related symptoms, such as an inability to see at night or under low lighting conditions. While low vision cannot be corrected with glasses, optometrists can provide low-vision aids to help individuals best use the remaining vision they have.

    Other health conditions:
    An eye exam doesn’t just determine if you need glasses or contacts. It can detect the symptoms of other serious health conditions that we are at a greater risk of developing as we age. These conditions include diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

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