- Words by Sean McIntyre Photographs by Don Denton
Despite knowing this day would come, I still wasn’t fully prepared.
Not too long ago, an optometrist told me I had another year or two before I’d need reading glasses.
Yeah, right, I scoffed. Sure, my eyesight had never been perfect, but I’d managed fine, thank you very much. My denial was steadfast, yet there was an assuredness in her voice that sealed the inevitable.
Three years later, I’d learned a convoluted repertoire of facial contortions to decipher the small print on everything from ingredients lists to medication bottles. Then, as if a change had occurred overnight, it was all scribbles; there was no way I could make out an address printed in teeny tiny letters without first grabbing a picture of it with my phone and zooming in on the image.
I’m not alone, according to doctors Trevor Miranda and Anita Voisin, two owners and doctors of optometry at Cowichan Eyecare. Presbyopia is a condition that starts commonly in people in their early 40s. As the eye ages, the lens of the eye becomes less flexible and it gets harder for it to focus on items located closer, such as printed words.
Both Dr. Miranda and Dr. Voisin agree that the cheap pair of readers I picked up at a nearby drugstore won’t harm me.
“Readers won’t hurt you, but they’re not the optimal situation,” Dr. Miranda says. “For patients that need different ranges of clarity, and have a difference in prescriptions between the two eyes, there are lenses out there that are better and more comfortable.”
Many patients like me who opt for the drugstore readers are needlessly living with lenses that offer substandard comfort and clarity. The difference between my entry level glasses and professionally supplied eyewear is as notable as the difference between high definition and regular TV in many cases, he adds.
The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends adults between the ages of 19 and 64 visit their optometrist every two years. Children and seniors over age 65 are advised to make annual visits. Not only do regular visits to the eye doctor offer patients the information needed to invest in the lenses they need to see properly, but it allows the optometrist to detect and address a wide range of eye conditions before it’s too late. As with other healthcare professionals, an optometrist’s ability to detect specific problems early on vastly improves a patient’s chances of effective treatment and long-term recovery.
“We take high definition photographs and specialty scans to serve as a baseline that will help us throughout the years to detect disease,” Dr. Voisin says. “You can actually have great vision but still have an underlying disease that can be damaging your vision without you actually being aware of it. Glaucoma, for example, can become quite advanced before people ever notice a change in their vision because it’s painless, and it’s very slowly progressive. Unfortunately, once the nerve damage is done, we cannot restore what is lost; we can only prevent further damage from happening.”
In addition to routine eye examinations with state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, Cowichan Eyecare’s services include vision therapy, myopia management, dry-eye therapy and contact lens exams and fittings. One of the company’s unique advantages is that Cowichan Eyecare employs a team of optometrists, each with specialties that enable them to handle in-house referrals to address patients’ specific concerns.
“I always hope that I can educate each patient on some aspect of improving their vision and protecting the future health of their eyes,” Dr. Voisin says.
Dr. Miranda opened the original Cowichan Eyecare location in Mill Bay back in the early 1990s. Dr. Voisin joined as a partner soon after, and the company’s reputation helped it quickly grow a team of optometrists who now work out of branches in Chemainus, Lake Cowichan, Duncan and Mill Bay. The company will open its newest location in Langford this fall.
Demand for optometry services has never been higher, and the Cowichan Eyecare team has made the company a trusted name in healthcare for Vancouver Islanders of all ages through attentive customer service, exacting professional standards and an unyielding commitment to community, says Dr. Miranda.
In a world that’s turned increasingly online for services and retail, he adds, the company has evolved with market trends to manage the “bricks and clicks,” while staying true to being what he calls the region’s “friendly neighbourhood optometrists.”
The company is also a dedicated corporate citizen, sponsoring community organizations such as the Chemainus Theatre, Rotary clubs in South Cowichan and Chemainus, the Third World Eye Care Society, as well as youth leadership initiatives and school sports programs across the Cowichan Valley.
According to Dr. Miranda, studies have shown people consider a visit to the optometrist to be nearly as stressful as buying a home. I can relate. Though buying a home is often seen as one of life’s great milestones, a visit to the optometrist calls upon the patient to face an inevitable part of the aging process, albeit one that is all too easily deferred or overlooked.
The alternative to not getting my readers, Dr. Miranda points out, is an ever-diminishing ability to see what’s right in front of me along with associated symptoms of tiredness, stress and headaches. With a solution so close at hand, it feels silly and irresponsible for taking so long to walk through the door to discuss my options.
Within the span of even our short interview, Drs. Miranda and Voisin let me know of an entire range of lenses designed to block the harmful blue light emitted by electronic devices from damaging the eye. Then there are the EnChroma lenses, which can offer people with colour blindness a chance to see a wider spectrum of hues. As someone who has lived with a subtle form of colour blindness for my entire life, news of a possible solution struck me as a revelation. I’ve yet to pursue the treatment, but I’m curious about what the world looks like when seen in its full spectrum of colours.
Although my new pair of cheapo readers might be sufficient for now, it’s clear there’s a whole world of health, comfort and style that I’ve been unable to see.
You can find Cowichan Eyecare online here.