Amendments to the Optometrists Regulation took effect Wednesday that will allow B.C. doctors of optometry to prescribe medications to treat glaucoma — an eye disease that often has no symptoms and may result in permanent blindness. The changes will make it easier and faster for British Columbians to get the advanced eye care they need to prevent or slow down the progression of glaucoma — especially in rural and remote areas of the province, according to the British Columbia Association of Optometrists (BCAO).
“By allowing doctors of optometry to prescribe anti-glaucoma medications, patients will have greater access to timely and appropriate eye care in all areas of the province,” says Dr. Surjinder Sahota, president of the British Columbia Association of Optometrists. “Doctors of optometry are educated and certified to diagnose and to prescribe treatment for glaucoma. The recent changes allow them to practice what they are already certified to do.”
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada and roughly five out of every 100 British Columbians over the age of 40 have the eye disease. Unlike many other conditions, it can strike at any age, and generally has no symptoms — earning glaucoma the nickname “the silent thief of sight.”
“Anyone can develop glaucoma, but the risk increases with age and B.C.’s population is growing and aging,” Sahota says. “Expanding the scope of practice for B.C. Doctors of Optometry will result in an overall reduction in health care costs and reduced waiting times and travel for patients — particularly in rural areas. It’s not uncommon for rural patients to wait over a year or travel hundreds of kilometers to receive treatment.”
Before the regulations changed, Williams Lake B.C. resident Sharon Keighley had to travel more than a thousand kilometres to and from Vancouver to receive treatment.
“It’s not easy,” Keighley says. “It’s about time these changes took place. They will make a huge difference.”
Early detection and treatment are vital in preventing irreversible vision loss that occurs with glaucoma. Having regular eye health exams, even if you see well or don’t wear glasses, can help detect glaucoma early enough to prevent vision loss.
BC Doctors of Optometry are your primary vision and eye health care providers. They provide a full range of services, including comprehensive eye exams, vision correction, disease detection and treatment, and eyewear. To book an exam, visit www.bcdoctorsofoptometry.com or join our Facebook community to post your eye-related questions at www.facebook.com/AskaDoctorofOptometry.