Many Canadians skip regular eye exams. What are the risks? – National | Rare Techy


New polling shows many Canadians skip routine eye exams despite coverage being available, raising concerns about disease risks and long-term complications.

In findings from optical retail chain Specsavers released Wednesday, 50 per cent of participants said they did not plan to use their vision health benefits before the end of the year, despite having coverage through their work or provincial health authority.

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One in four Canadians who don’t wear glasses haven’t had an eye exam in more than a decade, according to one of two online surveys conducted by Specsavers. Each survey involved more than 1,500 Canadians and was completed in September and November.

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The main reasons for not having a regular biennial eye exam were financial (33 percent) and no complaints of vision problems or symptoms (22 percent).

Doctors say this is worrying because many eye diseases and disorders can progress without people noticing any changes in their vision, and delaying diagnosis can cause long-term damage.

Click to play video: 'Understanding the Importance of Vision and Eye Health'

Understand the importance of vision and eye health

Brad Macario, an optometrist in British Columbia, said, “Regular regular exams are really necessary to ensure that eye disease is caught early and treated when it can have some positive effects.

Research in Canada shows that 75 percent of vision impairment is preventable if detected and treated early.

That should be enough motivation for people to get their eyes checked, Macario said.

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“If things weren’t detected early enough, we wouldn’t be able to intervene effectively if they had (a regular annual exam),” he told Global News.

What is a comprehensive eye exam?

Eye exams can start as early as six months of age, and the Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that infants and toddlers have their first exam before nine months.

Preschool children between the ages of two and five should have at least one eye exam, and an annual exam is recommended for school-aged children aged six to 19 and adults aged 65 and over.

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For adults between the ages of 20 and 64, the CAO recommends every two years.

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A comprehensive eye exam not only determines a prescription for glasses or contact lenses, but also examines the overall health of the eye to determine risk factors for vision loss.

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A noninvasive imaging test called optical coherence tomography (OCT) takes a 3D scan of the eye, looking at anatomy and tissue well beyond what the human eye can detect, Macario said.

The test can help detect any type of disease affecting vision, he explained.

Dr. Phil Hooper, president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, said routine examinations also check eye movements, eye pressure, lens, cornea and retina.

“All of these aspects are very important to detect the disease at an early stage, if there is disease, and hopefully at that stage it can be more treatable.”

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Risks of Skipping Eye Exams

Doctors say many Canadians are delaying or forgoing their eye exams amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

“We’ve had this huge gap where people have completely put off testing, and it’s not really been a priority,” Macario said.

Early on, strict lockdowns restricted access to eye care in some jurisdictions. But now more people are coming in for a routine exam, Macario said.

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Optometrists say increased screen time during the pandemic has increased eye problems in children.

The majority (57 per cent) of those surveyed by Specsavers said that worsening eyesight over time would cause them to increase the number of times they get their eyes checked.

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But many seem to wait until they have a problem before getting a checkup; Diagnosed conditions, abnormal vision problems such as blurriness and spots, as well as eye pain are other important reasons for an eye exam.

There is a significant impact of delaying screening if you have an underlying problem, such as diabetes, Hooper said.

Click to play video: 'Eye doctors see more vision problems in kids after increased screen time'

Ophthalmologists are seeing more vision problems in children after increased screen time

Blurred vision results from the development of diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease caused by high blood sugar — as well as macular degeneration — when part of the retina is damaged in the elderly, he said.

The risk of peripheral vision loss from glaucoma also increases with age and can go undiagnosed because the disease has no symptoms in its early stages, Hooper said.

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“If you wait with glaucoma until you have symptoms, you’re going to be severely impaired early on,” Hooper told Global News.

A recent survey by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and the Canadian Association of Optometrists found that 41 percent of people have experienced or been diagnosed with one or more changes in their eye health in the past two years that require a comprehensive examination.

A report published in October found that Canadians lack awareness of eye health and disease.

Hooper said a broad approach across different forums and a joint effort from the provinces and the federal government is needed to get the message across.

&Copy 2022 Global News, Corus Entertainment Inc.


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