If I asked most of you what an ophthalmologist does, I’d likely see a lot of blank stares. (Some ocular humour for you there!) But you wouldn’t be alone. Despite a family history of glaucoma, it honestly wasn’t clear to me, either. I mean, I know what my optometrist does—I stop in every couple of years, make sure my eyesight’s still good, and fill a prescription for my latest pair of specs.
But my eyes aren’t all that bad—at -2.00 each, I can live most of my day without wearing my glasses, preferring to have them on for fashion over function. But what about those who aren’t so lucky? Consider the cornea, the transparent dome that covers the front of the eye. With the most densely integrated set of nerves in the body, the cornea requires an immense degree of precision and symmetry to fix it if it ever ends up diseased, and that’s where ophthalmologists come in!
As the only eye care professionals who are also medical doctors, ophthalmologists help navigate Canadians through numerous eye diseases that they’re woefully unaware of. I recently had the chance to scrub in and shadow Dr. Clara Chan, an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Toronto, a specialist in cornea and cataract surgery, and a member of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society who opened my eyes to what ophthalmologists get up to at Toronto’s Kensington Eye Institute!
When I told some of my peers I’d be sitting in on some cross-linking and cornea transplant surgery; it left them with mixed feelings!
I’m not a gambling man, but I’d wager scalpels and sutures are some of the last things that come to mind when you think of bloggers, yet there I was, watching as tissue donation helped restore sight and cross-linking helped maintain it. Sure, it was an experience that might not be for the squeamish, but I have so much more appreciation for why we need ophthalmologists now! Imagine having to sew stitches with sutures one-tenth the width of human hair. Or needing to slice just enough of the cornea off to improve vision and not inflict permanent damage by preserving the remaining half-millimetre of tissue. These are things ophthalmologists need to do every day, and I’m glad that we have such skilled and adept professionals at the helm for this work!
The Canadian Ophthalmological Society — See a Better Future with Their Help!
Ultimately, it all comes down to awareness. A recent survey by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society — the national, recognised authority on eye and vision care across Canada — found that while a staggering 59% of Canadians experience symptoms related to eye disease, only 54% of them see a professional about them. Ophthalmologists are diagnosing and treating the top eye diseases affecting Canadians today:
- age-related macular degeneration—or AMD for short—which is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada, but has 51% of Canadians unaware of it or the severe damage it can cause
- diabetic retinopathy, which affects half a million Canadians (not to mention that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Canadians under 50), yet only 34% of Canadians even recognise the name, and a staggering 41% haven’t even heard of it
- and also glaucoma and cataracts which are also quite prevalent across the nation
But too many of us don’t even consider any of this a possibility until it happens to us. Millennials especially, whether due to a lack of jobs with benefits or mistakenly believing ourselves invincible, are even less aware than the national average, with only 44% of us likely to see a physician after experiencing typical symptoms of potential eye disease.
So if you’re experiencing difficulty seeing at night, problems reading up close, blurry vision, red and watery eyes or if you even see flashes of light, it might be time to go in and see somebody who knows what’s going on.
My fellow Canadians — it might be time to check in with an ophthalmologist!
With 35 around the corner, I’m only growing more aware that I get but one body. And though I may feel well enough now and keep up with my kids, nothing guarantees that’ll be the case forever. So it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m aware of not only what’s happening to my body right now, but also what might happen in the future.
So take care of your eyes, but don’t try to do it on your own—trust the professionals who’ve studied at least thirteen years to claim their name. Ophthalmologists are the truth.
You can’t prepare for everything, but you can make choices today that prepare you for a better tomorrow. The members of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society — with over 1100 ophthalmologists and residents working hard to provide medical and surgical eye care for all Canadians!
See the possibilities.
Stay healthy out there, and until the next, I remain,
Disclaimer: I wrote this piece on behalf of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society to showcase what ophthalmology is all about and how ophthalmologists go about their work! They gave me some information to set me on my way, but all thoughts and opinions remain my own. (You should seriously stay on your health, though!)