November 14, 2016 (Toronto) – As part of World Diabetes Day, the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) wants Ontarians to get their eyes checked.

“From cataracts to glaucoma, diabetes can very seriously affect every part of the eye,” said Dr. Jeffrey Guthrie, optometrist and President of OAO. “Worst of all is diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when the tiny blood vessels in your retina become weak and leaky. Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy can result in permanent vision loss.”

Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is essential to successful treatment, so that people living with diabetes can avoid the serious impacts that vision loss will have on their lives. Regular comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist are necessary to detect the condition before vision loss occurs, because retinopathy’s early stages are symptomless and damage may be irreversible. In Ontario, comprehensive eye exams for people living with diabetes are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), a fact that is not widely known.

“Like most chronic diseases, early detection and proper management of diabetes is key to reducing the risk of complications such as vision loss and blindness. That’s why it’s so important to have regular comprehensive eye exams,” says Rick Blickstead, president and CEO of the Canadian Diabetes Association. “It’s not well known in Ontario that eye exams are publicly covered for people with diabetes. We urge the public to take advantage of this benefit.”

The benefits of comprehensive eye exams also extends to early detection of diabetes.

“Comprehensive eye exams can pick up on subtle changes in the eye that can indicate issues with the patient’s overall health. Optometrists can catch even the earliest signs of diabetes, before the patient has noticed any symptoms,” said Dr. Guthrie.

Quick facts:
There are an estimated 1.6 million Ontarians currently living with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is the number 1 cause of preventable blindness in working-aged Ontarians.
According to a 2016 report by Health Quality Ontario, more than 40 per cent of Ontarians aged 20 to 64 living with diabetes do not undergo a comprehensive eye exam within the recommended two-year period.
This same report shows that nearly one-third of all Ontarians living with diabetes do not undergo a comprehensive eye exam within the recommended two-year period.

Learn more about diabetic retinopathy at: www.on.doctorsofoptometry.ca/diabetes-your-eyes 
Find an optometrist near you at: www.findaneyedoctor.ca

One in three Canadians already has diabetes or prediabetes and many don’t know it, so the need for prevention is greater than ever. By taking a short online type 2 diabetes risk test at www.diabetestest.ca, people can start to take charge of their health.

About the Ontario Association of Optometrists 

The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) is the leading professional organization, representing nearly 1,600 optometrists. We are dedicated to helping our members provide the highest standard of eye health and vision care for Ontarians while driving the profession of optometry forward. OAO’s members are highly-trained regulated health professionals providing primary eye health and vision care to Ontarians. For more information, please visit: optom.on.ca.

For more information, contact:

Elissa Hanna
Ontario Association of Optometrists
905-826-3522 ext. 246
ehanna@optom.on.ca