Surrey / Delta, April 13, 2010 – Surrey and Delta optometrists are encouraging area residents to speak up and share their personal examples of eye health and overall health problems detected by an optometrist at www.facebook.com/speakoutforeyehealth and by writing their MLAs.
The plea is being made to help fight proposed regulations allowing opticians to dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses from independent “sight tests” using automated computerized equipment. This removes the eye health examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, which would determine if there are underlying eye or overall health problems that the patient is not aware of.
One Surrey-area resident who recently came forward with her concerns is Traci O’Flaherty. “During a bi-annual exam with my optometrist, I was stunned to learn the mild headaches I had been experiencing were actually symptoms of a brain tumor,” says O’Flaherty. “I was lucky enough to have immediate brain surgery and have since recovered – but I know a simple sight test wouldn’t have caught my illness.”
Faye Burnham can also vouch for the importance of getting a full eye exam. “A routine visit to my optometrist quickly turned serious when I learned that instead of needing a new prescription for glasses, I actually had a serious retinal condition requiring immediate surgery,” recalls Burnham. “I would’ve gone blind if I hadn’t had a full eye exam.”
Another Surrey resident, Raj Sahota, remembers when she was diagnosed with glaucoma. “I was shocked during a regular eye exam when my optometrist found bleeding at the back of my eye – I had no idea,” she says. “I was later diagnosed with glaucoma and have been able to manage it, but I doubt I would’ve had such a positive outcome with a sight test because it would have been missed and I could have lost my vision.”
The B.C. Association of Optometrists says these are just a few examples of the kinds of eye diseases and overall health conditions that might go unchecked. Serious eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration have no visible early warning signs and often go undetected until vision loss occurs. In fact, a recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Optometry found at least one out of every seven people visiting an optometrist for a regular eye exam have “asymptomatic” eye disease – eye disease with no noticeable symptoms – even patients with good vision.
Optometrists also point out that the proposed regulations will permit the online sale of glasses and lenses without the seller having to verify the prescription. This shifts the responsibility for prescription accuracy to the patient, instead of the seller or prescriber. The Association said in a statement that “Buyer beware is not appropriate for health services and products.”
“The B.C. government is hailing these changes as a ‘modernization’ of current regulation,” says Dr. Angela Hern of Pacific Eye Doctors in Delta. “It’s not – it’s actually taking us backwards into Third World standards.”
Optometrists 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, 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, 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.
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Surrey and Delta optometrists in support of speaking out:
Dr. Angela Hern – Pacific Eye Doctors, Delta
Dr. Nixon J. White – Pacific Eye Doctors, Delta
Dr. Sandeep Sadhu – Pacific Eye Doctors, Delta
Dr. John S. Black – Pacific Eye Doctors, Delta
Dr. Saida V. Lalani – Scott Road Eye Clinic, Delta
Dr. Riley W. Hanberg – Newton Optometry Clinic, Surrey
Dr. Jason Ding – SouthPoint Optometry Clinic, Surrey
Dr. Sandy Johal – Panorama Optometry, Surrey
Dr. Rick Wong – Dr. Rick Wong Optometric Clinic, Surrey
§ BCAO News Release: Proposed changes to regulations will put eye health and safety of B.C. public at risk
§ Eye Exams and Sight Tests: Understanding the Difference
§ Canadian Journal of Optometry article: Prevalence of Asymptomatic Eye Disease
§ College of Physicians & Surgeons of BC – policy statement: Provision of Prescriptions for Ocular Refraction, October 2009
§ Sight-testing Backgrounder and Timeline
§ 2009 Cost of Blindness Study, CNIB and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society
§ CNIB letter of support/concern re: B.C. regulations
§ Who’s Who in Eye Care? Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians
§ Common Eye Diseases and Disorders
§ Common Vision Conditions
§ US Federal Legislation: contact lens prescription release rule
§ US Federal Legislation: contacts lens prescription release law
For more information contact:
Rhonda Trenholm, media relations, 604.623.3007