5 05/09/2012 life Health & Fitness

Seeing into the Future

photo.jpg“I see the early stages of cataracts, but that’s normal for your age.”

Thus spoke my optometrist at my last eye exam a scant two months ago. Scary, scary words. When I questioned her, she assured me that they were very early signs, quite typical for a person in her early forties, and that they would not affect my vision for many years, if at all. The good news was that I had absolutely no signs of any other common age-related eye problems, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.

Still, all-in-all, it was a sobering appointment for me. I’ve been visiting the optometrist annually since I first got glasses at age seventeen, and other than the odd prescription change, my eyes have always gotten a clean bill of health. To think that I had to start worrying about cataracts or other eye diseases after crossing this invisible line at my fortieth birthday really affected me. Plus, I don’t like to think of myself as “middle-aged”.

But the truth is, a recent study by the CNIB (the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) suggested that one third of adults over age 40 could have an eye disease. And because many of these diseases don’t have noticeable symptoms in the early stages (meaning your vision isn’t affected at first), many of us forty-somethings could be walking around with undiagnosed eye disease – cataracts and macular degeneration were the most commonly observed diseases in the study.

Thumbnail image for green-eye.jpg
Another fact the CURES study (Canadian Uncorrected Refractive Error Study) uncovered is that one in seven adults over 40 in the study had reduced vision at distance. This might be surprising, as most of us likely expect to be working our way into our first pair of reading glasses somewhere north of 40, and may not think as much about our distance vision. But it seems we should be. In addition, seventy percent of those with reduced vision at distance had uncorrected refractive error, which means that their vision loss could be corrected with a pair of eye glasses or contact lenses. In fact, the CNIB estimates that three million Canadians at age 40 have some form of undetected vision loss. But this isn’t a story just for those of us who’ve entered the prime years of our lives – everybody at every age should be getting an annual eye exam.

Which really begs the question: if you’re not getting your eyes examined by an optometrist annually, what are you waiting for? The study found that participants who had a longer time lapse since their last eye exam were more likely to have vision loss.

eye-glasses.jpgThe results of the CURES study also clearly demonstrate that undetected vision loss is a huge problem in Canada. And in most cases, all it takes to fix it is a pair of glasses or contact lenses. Easy-peasy. The fact that one third of Canadians over 40 may also have undiagnosed eye disease is also incredibly sobering. Eye diseases can lead to permanent blindness – a frightening prospect to be sure – but even mild to moderate vision loss can seriously affect quality of life, especially as we age. The bottom line is that a regular, complete eye exam from an optometrist is a great way to detect many serious eye diseases that can lead to vision loss – like AMD, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.

For more information or to locate an optometrist near you, visit www.eyesareforlife.ca 

CNIB.jpgThis post is sponsored by the CNIB. May is Vision Health Month, and CNIB is challenging Canadians to take action to maintain their vision health so that we can eliminate avoidable sight loss in Canada.

  • Meg

    I have DEFINITELY noticed a difference in my vision since 40. This motivated me to get off my ass and get my eyes checked!

  • Amreen

    A good reminder, Kath. Thanks!

  • Allyson

    Love the glasses on you! Just look at OHIP as I have just moved back and was disappointed to see they don’t cover any eye checks. They did say they will with people with eye conditions and cataracts is inclued. I know you are not in Ontario but curious to see if they would cover checks for people with early signs of a condition.

  • Julie

    and neither is the dentist!

  • maria

    Yet, eye care is not covered by OHIP – go figure…

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