The Canadian Association of Optometrists is urging people to have their eyes examined regularly as a part of their preventive care routine. The plea, an education initiative for May — which is Vision Health Month — stresses that comprehensive eye exams are important even for people with good vision, because they help to detect both eye disease and conditions that may affect the eyes, such as tumors, liver disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, vision problems are among the first symptoms of MS for many people. These symptoms include optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve, or damage to nerve pathways responsible for eye movements and visual coordination, derived from the damage the disease does to myelin. Such damage results in the slowing down of information traveling between the brain and they eyes, and may lead to double vision, blurred vision, or blindness. Comprehensive eye exams can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Other illnesses associated with eye problems include aneurysms, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid, sickle cell, and Parkinson’s disease.
Studies have reported that Canadians who usually skip eye exams believe they have good vision and healthy eyes. But even in people with good vision, optometrists can detect changes in the eyes’ blood vessels, optic nerves, and other structures that contain clues to possible health concerns.
“Think of it as a physical for your eyes,” said Dr. Barry Thienes, president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, in a press release. “Through a series of tests and procedures, optometrists can help detect conditions before other physical effects are noticed, allowing them to work closely with other primary health care providers to improve patient outcomes.”
The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that adults have an eye exam every two years and, for those over 65, an annual eye exam is recommended. For children, the association recommends a first exam between 6 and 9 months of age, a second eye exam between 2 and 5 years old, and then annually after starting school.