It also marks the start of Vision Health Month.  A time to put a little extra thought into your eyes — considering their care, all they do for you, and what you can do for them.

There’s a lot to consider. Eye related technologies are one of the fastest moving sectors, offering Canadians an array of opportunities and solutions. From managing dry eye, to emerging treatments for wet AMD and cataracts, the options and therapies continue to expand. But then, the eyes themselves are a wonder. They not only allow us to engage in our external environment, but they afford us a unique internal view of the body.

Eye exams service more than your vision

Regular eye exams by a doctor of optometry can help to detect not just eye related problems, but potentially life threatening conditions such as brain tumours, high blood pressure, and diabetes. When an optometrists looks into your eyes they can see a host of health conditions that may show symptoms in the eyes and could include the following: aneurysms, autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease, sickle cell disease, liver disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological or brain disorders.

Despite all of the benefits regular comprehensive eye exams can bring, we still see some concerning stats in Canada. Vision disorders affect 25 percent of school age children, but the majority (61 percent) of Canadian parents wrongfully believe they would be able to tell if their child had a vision problem. A misconception that leads to only 14 percent of Canadian children under the age of six seeing a vision care professional for a comprehensive eye exam.

“When an optometrists looks into your eyes they can see a host of health conditions that may show symptoms in the eyes.”

The picture for adults is not much better. Vision loss affecting working-age Canadians is related to reduced productivity, missing work, and low income. After age 40, the number of cases of vision loss doubles every decade, and triples at age 75. With Canada’s aging population, the number of visually impaired Canadians is set to increase by 30 percent in the next ten years.

The national impact of vision loss

But, the future doesn’t have to be dark. Canada spends $19.1-billion on vision loss annually. Imagine what we could do if we were to focus some of that investment on prevention. Addressing the economic and social impact of vision loss needs to start with a plan. Optometrists encourage the federal government to consider a national framework for action towards preventing avoidable blindness and promoting vision health.

This approach is consistent with the World Health Organization’s commitment to the prevention of avoidable blindness and vision impairment. A vision framework that would cater specifically to patients, especially in high-risk groups such as children, low-income families, indigenous, and aging Canadians.

Patient-focused, integrated, and collaborative delivery models of eye care should be essential to primary health care. By cultivating partnerships between individuals, NGOs, governments, stakeholders, and industry we can achieve our common goal of an improved eye care system for all Canadians.