When Mr Franklin uttered these famous words, he was actually speaking to the residents of Philadelphia in 1736 when he realized that they were sorely under prepared to protect their city from the ravages of fire. Since then, we have found many instances where this adage fits. Especially in health care.
In the eye health industry, we use it to remind patients that an annual eye exam with your optometrist is so much more than checking your prescription and selling you glasses or contact lenses. And that, sometimes, an ounce of prevention can detect and impede the progression of the incurable.
It seems that, almost daily, we will question a patient about their systemic conditions and their current medications only to be asked, “None of that has anything to do with my eyes… Does it?”
Well, yeah. Sometimes it does!
Systemic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can cause serious – often irreversible – damage to the eye if not caught and treated early on. Often, a good comprehensive examination can detect problems even though you may not have diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension yet.
Some medications have been shown to cause ocular side effects, so knowing what you take is important. For example, amiodarone, Plaquenil, steroids and ED medications can cause permanent changes in your eyes.
Prevention is key. Some systemic conditions and their side effects cannot be prevented, but early detection may stop or slow down their progression.
With that being said, we cannot be arrogant enough to think that we can prevent, halt or cure all causes of vision loss and blindness. Congenital and hereditary defects such as retinitis pigmentosa are not preventable and are progressive. When this sort of thing happens or preventative measures just aren’t enough, what does one do?
While there are many agencies – such as Lighthouse For the Blind and Lions Club International – to lend aid to the blind and visually impaired, some of the most amazing are those who provide guide dogs to assist people in their day-to-day activities.
In 2004, the late actor Dick Van Patten found himself impressed by the intelligence, persistence and patience of guide dogs. After a visit to a local California training facility where, blindfolded, he experience firsthand the abilities of these animals, he decided that he needed a way to offset the more than $40,000 that it took in the two years of raising and training these amazing pups for their lifetimes of service.
Using his own pet food company – Natural Balance – Van Patten started a fund-raising drive to benefit non-profit guide dog training facilities across the U.S. Then, with the help of the Petco Foundation, Mr Van Patten’s fundraiser turned into a month-long annual celebration to honor the wonderful animals that assist people with special needs lead a more natural life.
Without Dick Van Patten’s “vision”, many people with life-altering conditions – from blindness to PTSD – would have a difficult time obtaining these fabulous assistants.
This September, celebrate National Guide/Service Dog Month by recognizing these hard-working canine crusaders in any way possible. And, please, do whatever you can to help prevent blindness.