Our vision is one of the most important senses we have, yet we tend to take it for granted. We go about our day-to-day activities without thinking about the health of our eyes, a dangerous habit that Canadians can avoid.
The month of May has been declared Vision Health Month. This month, the importance of vision health is being promoted by Ontario’s Doctors of Optometry and CNIB, formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, which provides services for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted.
“The CNIB takes the vision health of Canadians very seriously, and we want to really help Canadians to look after their vision for themselves and their families,” said Mike Nicholson, a spokesperson for CNIB. “Vision Health Month is set aside by CNIB and is now a national Vision Health Month, just to get Canadians to look after their eyes in the same way that they look after their teeth, or they’ll begin putting on sunblock very soon now… We tend to look after those things very well, but we tend to forget our vision and we’re just wanting to remind Canadians to look after such a valuable asset.”
We can look after our eyes by protecting them from UV rays, keeping a balanced and healthy diet, and refraining from smoking. However, doing all of these things doesn’t mean you should skip your visit to the optometrist.
“Seeing 20/20 doesn’t necessarily indicate a healthy eye,” said Dr. Nathan Stolch, an Ottawa-based practitioner. “There can be underlying health problems in an eye that does see well, and only a comprehensive eye examination with your doctor of optometry can help identify that.”
Apart from checking how well your eyes can see, a comprehensive eye exam takes other details into account. During a comprehensive eye exam, the doctor will measure how well the eye muscles are working, how well the eye focuses, and how well the eyes work together. The doctor will look at the health of the outside of the eye, as well as the inside the eye: the retina, the nerves, and blood vessels – these can help determine health problems such as diabetes or age-related macular degeneration.
Dr. Stolch went on, “About one in seven Canadians will develop a serious eye disease in their lifetime, and the sooner that we see these people, the better their outcome will be; we can treat many and most of these conditions. About 75 per cent of vision loss in Canada is preventable or treatable. The sooner we see it, the easier it is to deal with.”
Incorporating regular visits to your optometrist as part of your health plan is one way you can be proactive about your vision health. Dr. Stolch recommends that children be checked on an annual basis; their first exam should be between six and nine months of age. Adults should be examined every two years, and seniors aged 65 and older should be examined annually. Making that trip to the optometrist can help preserve years of great vision.
Nicholson added, “It’s something that needs to be put into the health consciousness of Canadians. We’re quite a healthy nation, we want to do well, but we just need to be reminded that eyes are important too.”