Study reveals many Canadians unnecessarily living with vision loss

08/05/2012

A study released today by CNIB and the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry as part of Vision Health Month indicates that one in seven Canadian adults may be living with some form of vision loss, much of which could be corrected. Meanwhile, other results from the study indicate that more than one-third of Canadians over age 40 could actually have eye disease, despite having normal vision.

“The results are concerning,” warned Dr. Barbara Robinson, an optometrist and epidemiologist at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and the study’s principal investigator. “Firstly, many people aren’t seeing as well as they could be due to uncorrected refractive error. In fact, 70 per cent of study participants who had reduced vision could correct the problem by simply wearing the right glasses or contact lenses.”

Refractive error is a condition that occurs when the eye’s focusing system isn’t working properly, resulting in blurry vision. Refractive errors are usually correctible with glasses or contact lenses.

Dr. Robinson added: “More worrisome, however, is the fact that many serious eye diseases – for example, glaucoma – have no symptoms in the early stages. So if people aren’t getting their eyes examined, they probably aren’t getting early treatment that could potentially save their sight.”

“Vision loss can seriously affect quality of life,” commented Dr. Keith Gordon, Vice-President, Research, CNIB. “People with vision loss are more likely to fall, have a higher risk of fractures and other injuries and they may be more likely to limit or stop driving. Vision loss is also an independent risk factor for increased mortality in older persons.”

The Canadian Uncorrected Refractive Error Study (CURES) is the first population-based estimate of the prevalence of vision loss and blindness in Canada. A group of 768 Brantford, Ontario residents between the ages of 39 and 94 attended a vision screening by an eye doctor at the local CNIB office. The study found that participants who had a longer time lapse since their last eye exam were more likely to have vision loss.

“This study really drives home the importance of getting regular eye exams,” said Dr. Lillian Linton, President of the Canadian Association of Optometrists. “We know that 75 per cent of vision loss can be prevented or treated. A complete eye exam from a doctor of optometry can detect both sight loss due to uncorrected refractive error and eye diseases that can lead to permanent blindness.”

Funding for the CURES pilot study was provided by CNIB, Essilor Canada, Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Canadian Optometric Education Trust Fund, New Brunswick Association of Optometrists, Quebec Association of Optometrists (Fondation Quebecoise pour la sante visuelle), Alberta Association of Optometrists and the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists​.

CNIB is grateful for the support of its Vision Health Month partners who are making a real difference when it comes to educating Canadians about vision health. CNIB would especially like to thank the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) as National Vision Health Month Partner, Bayer and Loblaw Optical/Joe Fresh® as Proud Supporters and The Weather Network, Postmedia and Accessible Media Inc. as National Media Partners.

For more information, please contact:

Erika Bennett, Public Relations Specialist
(416) 486-2500 ext. 8355
erika.bennett@cnib.ca

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