MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, November 9, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - November is Diabetes Awareness Month and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) is reminding the public about the importance of routine eye exams—especially for those living with diabetes.
Approximately 1.2 million Ontarians have diabetes and as many as 200,000 people are unaware they have it. In fact, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association by 2020 1 in 3 Canadians will have diabetes, putting them at an increased risk for serious health complications such as eye disease and potential blindness. Eye disease can be managed and often prevented by visiting an eye care professional every year.
"Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness among adults," said Dr. Anju Clement, optometrist and member of the OAO. "Patients with eye disease may not notice any changes in their vision, especially during the early treatable stages of the disease. That's why visiting an optometrist is essential for early detection and timely treatment."
Statistics show that only about 50 per cent of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes had their eyes checked in the last year, even though annual eye examinations are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. Those most likely not to have had an eye exam in the past year were people aged 20 to 64 and those living in urban areas.
Under the Ontario Diabetes Strategy, the OAO is partnering with the Ministry of Health and the Diabetes Regional Control Centres to ensure that people with diabetes have necessary tests for optimal diabetes management, including a comprehensive eye exam.
While people with diabetes are more likely to develop eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, they are also more susceptible to retinal complications that can threaten vision.
By dilating the eye, optometrists can detect diabetic retinopathy, a damaging eye condition that causes the blood vessels at the back of the eye to leak or swell. If left untreated, it can result in loss of vision or blindness. Comprehensive eye examinations provided by optometrists are insured by the Ontario government every year for people of all ages with diabetes, and a referral is not required.
Patients with diabetes who are able to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels have fewer eye problems than those with poor control. Research has proven that good control can slow the onset of eye complications, such as diabetic retinopathy. Diet and exercise also play important roles in the overall health of those with diabetes. But the best way to catch early eye problems is to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist every year.
Dr. Clement adds that other health issues may be discovered during an eye exam. "A dilated eye exam is the only time blood vessels can be seen in their natural state. Sometimes, this allows us to uncover signs that may save someone's life."
To learn more about comprehensive eye examinations or to find an optometrist, please visit the OAO website at www.optom.on.ca or call 1-800-540-3837.
For over 100 years, the OAO has been the voluntary professional organization representing optometrists in Ontario in matters of advocacy, community and education. The OAO represents over 1,500 optometrists who practise in over 200 towns and cities across Ontario and are the main providers of primary eye care in Ontario.