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Did you know an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide are living with some form of vision impairment, and certain ethnicities can disproportionately be affected? In fact, diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness among working-age populations in the Western world, is more prevalent in people of South Asian or Indian descent.

Approximately 80 per cent of all vision impairment is avoidable but frustratingly, in Canada, research shows awareness for vision health is poor. In fact, a 2018 study revealed that the majority of Canadians (59 per cent) experience symptoms of potential eye disease, yet only half of these people (54 per cent) reported they had seen a health care professional to ensure proper eye health.

While we typically understand the importance of visiting a doctor for an annual check-up and seeing a dentist for bi-annual cleanings, many don’t realize the importance of getting their eyes checked on a regular basis. An eye exam by a licensed optometrist is like a “physical” for your eyes so it’s important that we all have lifelong relationships with their optometrist, as early detection is key in preventing eye disease progression, vision loss or even blindness.

Symptoms to watch out for include: having difficulty reading, sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close, closing one eye to read or watch TV, frequent eye rubbing, sensitivity to light or excessive tearing, avoiding using a computer because it hurts the eyes, having trouble seeing the board at school, or a sudden drop in grades.

Besides ensuring proper vision, underlying health conditions can often be first detected through an eye exam. Early warning signs for conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, vascular disease, thyroid disease, brain tumors and diabetes can all be identified at early stages by an optometrist. Optometrists can also detect whether cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy – the top four causes of vision loss in seniors – are present.

How often Canadians should get their eyes checked, depends on their age but many may be surprised to know that infants as young as 6 months old should be visiting the optometrist.

The evidence-based guidelines developed by the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) recommends the following:

  • l Infants and Toddlers (Birth to 24 months) – First eye examination between the ages of 6 and 9 months
  • l Preschool Children (2 to 5 years) – At least one eye examination between the ages of 2 and 5 years
  • l School Age Children (6 to 19 years) – Annually
  • l Adults (20 to 39 years) – Every two to three years
  • l Adults (40 to 64 years) – Every two years
  • l Adults (65 years or older) – Annually

Vision changes can change your whole life. If you’re overdue for a check-up or notice any changes in your vision, visit Theodore & Pringle Optical or your local optical department at Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws, Zehrs, Fortinos, Your Independent Grocer, Atlantic Superstore and Dominion stores in Newfoundland.

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