Maureen Coulter, The Guardian
When Virginia McGowan of Charlottetown began having eye pain three years ago, she believed it was due to allergies.
McGowan’s eyes were dry and itchy, yet she was producing excess tears that wouldn’t stay in her eyes.
Her eyes were constantly straining, and she was having a difficult time reading.
McGowan decided to visit her family doctor and was prescribed allergy medication, which provided her with little relief.
“I felt miserable, I looked miserable,” said McGowan. “My eyes were red and screaming and I was just so unhappy and not comfortable at all.”
So McGowan made an appointment with her optometrist, Dr. Lester Jinks, at the Belvedere Vision Clinic and within three minutes, she was diagnosed with dry eye disease.
Jinks had her on an eye regime of daily lid cleansers, warm compresses, eye massages, Omega-3 supplements and eye drops.
McGowan went back to him a year later and had to have her prescription changed as her eyesight had actually improved.
“I felt so great,” said McGowan. “If your eyes are not healthy, then your quality of life is hugely compromised.”
Jinks said dry eye disease is among the most common ailments he sees as an optometrist.
“People often don’t realize the gravity of having dry eyes and the fact that it can be really miserable.”
Having dry eyes for a long period of time can increase the likeliness of infection and can cause corneal scratches. This could result in permanent damage or scarring to the front of the eye.
Jinks said optometrists are able to detect other health conditions besides eye-related diseases during an eye exam.
For example, optometrists can sometimes detect tumours, blood pressure and diabetes as it can effect the field of vision, blood vessels or the back of the eye.
“It’s useful as a screening because we do look at some things that the family doctor wouldn’t look at …. but we wouldn’t say people should come to us instead of your family doctor.”
Jinks recommends having an eye exams every two years but yearly for those with underlying health issues.
“We process so much information, most of it comes through our eyes,” said Jinks “Why not make it easy for ourselves and have glasses or make sure that our eyes are healthy to receive that information so that we can just enjoy life.”