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Risks associated with late screenings

A recent study by Dr. Cindy Hutnik of the Lawson Health Research Institute shows that many Canadians delay going for eye exams that would screen for glaucoma and allow them to treat the disease before it reaches an advanced stage.

Dr. Hutnik and her team studied the medical records of 404 patients diagnosed with glaucoma in 18 Canadian cities.  Their objective was to examine the risk factors shared by these patients.  The results were not surprising: age, deterioration, structural abnormalities and high intraocular pressure were established as risk factors.  What did surprise the researchers though, was that nearly half of the patients who showed risk factors obtained their diagnosis late, at a point when the disease had already progressed.

“Almost half to two-thirds of your optic nerve is dead before you even get a visual field defect,” explained Dr. Hutnik.  “If you’re late getting your clinical screening test, the nerve has been dying for a long time and once it’s dead, it’s dead.  You can only prevent it from getting worse.”

The absence of symptoms and the fact that eye exams are not covered by health insurance partly explains why Canadians are not getting screened early.

Source: Opt!k Magazine November 2011