PURPOSE. To determine the proportion of people presenting for an eye examination that have asymptomatic eye disease. METHOD. A consecutive sampling of patients from the practices of 133 optometrists across Canada. Optometrists were selected by stratified random sampling. The strata were composed of six regions in Canada based on provincial boundaries. Inclusion criteria for optometrists consisted of those registered or licensed to practice who provide 30 or more patient care hours per week. Recruited optometrists were provided with diagnostic codes for eye disease and asked to fill in reports on their next 200 patients.
RESULTS. Data was collected for 24,570 patients (57.2% female, 42.8% male) from mid-October 2000 to the end of January 2001. On average each doctor completed reports for 185 patients over a time period of 26.5 days. The percentage of the patient population that was elderly, 65 years of age or older, was 21.05% compared to 12.52% of the population in Canada in 2000. The probability of a previous diagnosis of eye disease increased from 11.27% (95% CI, 10.35% to 12.29%) at 45 to 54 years of age to 76.92% (95% CI, 72.5% to 80.95%) at 85 years of age and over. Almost half of patients (48.6%) with newly diagnosed eye disease were asymptomatic. The overall prevalence of asymptomatic eye disease in this optometric patient population was 13.67% (95% CI, 13.24% to 14.11%) or 3310 out of 24,216. Sixty percent of people with eye disease had a best-corrected visual acuity of 6/7.5 or better.
CONCLUSIONS. In this study almost one out of every six people presenting for an eye examination had asymptomatic eye disease. A good visual acuity does not rule out the presence of eye disease. This study supports the importance of a full ocular health assessment with each eye examination.