Lack of prompt, specialized care can lead to eye-health complications or vision loss, yet most Canadians don't know their options.
OTTAWA, May 1, 2015 /CNW/ - A recent nationwide survey reveals that when faced with an eye emergency, most Canadians do not know they could contact a Doctor of Optometry, even though it could give them access to prompt, specialized care.
The survey, conducted by the Mustel Group on behalf of Doctors of Optometry Canada, collected responses from 2,500 people across Canada. While many survey respondents said they would seek treatment from a Doctor of Optometry for non-urgent eye care, such as having their vision checked or being tested for cataracts, a much smaller number—fewer than 20 per cent—said they would see an optometrist if they developed symptoms of an eye infection, or experienced an eye injury or foreign body in the eye.
"People are not taking advantage of this health resource because they don't realize that optometrists have the training and equipment to treat a range of acute eye conditions, or that most can see patients the same day if the matter is deemed urgent," says Doctor of Optometry, Surjinder Sahota, a representative of the Canadian Association of Optometry's National Public Education Committee. "If you had a toothache, you'd likely go to the dentist. Yet, research shows that someone experiencing a red, irritated eye is more likely to head to a walk-in clinic."
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Research, more than 36,600 Canadians visited an emergency department in 2013/2014 seeking treatment for a common eye condition called conjunctivitis – also known as pink eye. Pink eye, which affects the surface of the eyeball and the inside of the eyelid, is the most common eye infection among children. It is also one of the top 10 causes of avoidable emergency department (ER) visits in Canada.
With average national ER wait times of more than four hours, patients are spending significant time waiting for care that can be promptly delivered by visiting their Doctor of Optometry. Patients visiting an optometrist for an urgent eye issue also benefit from the availability of specialized equipment allowing the optometrist to examine the exterior and interior of the eye.
Most uncomplicated eye conditions can be resolved with the proper diagnosis and treatment. However, misdiagnosis of an eye infection or injury can have significant consequences, mainly from delaying treatment.
"Many eye conditions present in a similar fashion, but they have different causes and treatments," says Dr. Sahota. "Under the microscope, optometrists can differentiate between a bacterial or viral infection, or an allergic reaction, and can prescribe the appropriate medication. Without access to this kind of technology, we would essentially have to make the diagnosis in the dark."
Using an upright microscope equipped with a high-intensity light called a slit-lamp, a Doctor of Optometry can fully examine the exterior and interior of the eye, including the eyelid, sclera, conjunctiva, iris, natural crystalline lens, and cornea.
A referral is not required to see a Doctor of Optometry for either acute or preventive eye care. Patients requiring follow up care with a secondary specialist, such as an ophthalmologist, can be referred by a Doctor of Optometry.
In many provinces, optometry visits for eye infections, eye injuries and other urgent eye care conditions are covered by the provincial health insurance plan. For more information on provincial coverage, visit:opto.ca/sites/default/files/resources/documents/prov-health-coverage-en-feb-2014.pdf
When Canadians were asked which healthcare professional they were most likely to seek out for a range of common eye health emergencies, fewer than one in five survey respondents chose a Doctor of Optometry.
- 19% for a foreign body in their eye (compared to 29% who would go to a hospital ER)
- 21% for an eye injury (compared to 32% who would go to a hospital ER)
- 18% for a small particle in their eye (compared to 28% who would go to a family doctor)
- 19% for itchy or red eyes (compared to 49% who would go to a family doctor)
About Doctors of Optometry Canada
Doctors of Optometry are health care specialists trained to diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases and disorders affecting the eyes, and also assist in identifying general health conditions that are often first detected through an eye exam. Doctor of Optometry-recommended treatments for patients can include eyeglasses, contact lenses, special low vision aids, eye coordination exercises, drug therapies, or referral to appropriate specialists for advanced medical, surgical, or laser treatments. For more information or to find a doctor, visit doctorsofoptometry.ca
SOURCE Doctors of Optometry Canada
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