Protect Your Sight: You Have A Choice When It Comes To Vision Treatment Options
Education and Advocacy Hi, my name is Louise Gillis, President of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB), an organization governed by individuals with vision loss.
art of our mandate is to promote eye care and prevent blindness, as well as implement measures to conserve sight, create a close relationship with the sighted community, and provide employment opportunities for those with vision loss.
Vision loss is a difficult condition to manage, as it has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities, or age. What is alarming to us is that in many instances, vision loss is easily preventable and sometimes is simply symptomatic of other health issues that can be controlled. This is why as an organization, we are committed to a proactive integrated health approach for early detection — improving the quality of life for all Canadians, including you.
Eye health can often be the very lowest medical concern to be attended to for Canadians because, in the majority of cases, one does not die from eye disease. This is why it is essential for you to bring eye care to the forefront of your health, so that the best possible treatment can be provided before major problems occur. Permanent damage can occur prior to major symptoms, which is why acting now on your vision health is critical.
“Vision loss is a difficult condition to manage, as it has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities, or age.”
There is good news, in that historic advances in medical research have resulted in several pharmaceutical products which can dramatically reduce or reverse vision loss brought about by vision threatening eye conditions. Not all vision loss is completely preventable, but Health Canada has approved specific products to treat these conditions and give sight, as well as hope, back to those who have lost it.
However, there are other products which have been and continue to be used mostly for cost-effective reasons. These products can be untested, and have not gone through the rigorous testing required by Health Canada yet they are going to be recommended to the provinces so they can save health care dollars. Is this what we want for Canadians? I do not believe so. Why should a person have to use unapproved eye treatment for three to six months prior to getting the option to have approved treatments which could improve the quality of life?
You should have a choice
Patients who visit their eye doctor for the treatment of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic macular edema (DME), retinal vein occlusion (RVO), or choroidal neovascularization in pathological myopia (mCNV) need to be fully informed of their choices in which drug to have injected. This informed choice should include (but is not limited to) information about the side effects of each available medication, the number of possible injections required, and treatment cost.
Treatment cost should not be the deciding factor. Sometimes costs can be less in the beginning, but with inadequate improvement in vision, treatment can become more costly. Currently there are two available drugs for treatment of these diseases, and patients need to have a choice in approved treatment.
CCB has worked with other patient groups to enable Canadians to get the best eye care possible. Research supports the use of current therapies in treating AMD, DME, and RVO. Until such time as unbranded drugs can be fully tested and approved by Health Canada, only branded treatments should be available.
Eye diseases can have a major impact on a person’s career, independence, family responsibilities, quality of life, and daily living. We sponsor a major project to help prevent blindness — a mobile eye clinic. The Mobile Eye Clinic provides on-site eye exams at retirement homes and schools. It has been found that over 60 percent of seniors examined were in need of eye care, and many of them had the conditions mentioned above. Approximately 26 percent of students required further eye care. This evidence supports that Canadians do not currently have their vision at the forefront of their health. We could collectively be doing a better job to ensure what many would consider our most important sense — our sight — is kept intact throughout our lives.
The need for proper eye care is evident. Ensuring patients get approved medications to treat these conditions is even more important — as it can lead to an improved quality of life. Give yourself the chance to see the ones you love for the rest of your life. Talk to your doctor today about your vision health.