Insight E-Newsletter - May 2013

Welcome to the May edition of "Insight". This month, we celebrate Vision Health Month, our annual awareness campaign designed to educate Canadians about their vision health and help eliminate avoidable sight loss across the country.

Read on to learn more about Vision Health Month and the one simple thing CNIB, along with Doctors of Optometry Canada, are asking you to do this Vision Health Month. You'll also meet a CNIB client with an important message to share about preventing vision loss, and get helpful tips for healthy eyes.

A simple step that could save your sight

As part of this year's exciting Vision Health Month campaign, CNIB is teaming up with Doctors of Optometry Canada to urge Canadians to do one simple thing that could save their sight: get an eye examination from a Doctor of Optometry.

Why is it so important? For one thing, perfect eyesight doesn't necessarily mean healthy eyes.

"20/20 vision and eye disease are not mutually exclusive," says Dr. Keith Gordon, vice president of research at CNIB. "Although a staggering one in seven Canadians will be diagnosed with an eye disease in their lifetime, it's not always as obvious as you'd think. Many eye diseases have no symptoms in the early stages, so it's possible to have one and still see perfectly well."

That's where a comprehensive eye examination from a Doctor of Optometry comes in. In addition to assessing a person's vision, the doctor conducts a series of specialized tests designed to diagnose eye diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

"The earlier an eye disease is detected, the greater the chance of preventing or minimizing associated vision loss through treatment," says Dr. Lil Linton, president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists and a spokesperson for Doctors of Optometry Canada. "That's why it's so critical to get your eyes examined regularly. By the time you notice a problem, it could be too late to save your sight."

How often should I get my eyes examined?

While these guidelines are not appropriate for all clinical situations, Doctors of Optometry Canada recommends that:

  • infantsshould have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age;
  • childrenshould undergo at least one eye examination between the ages of two and five, and then yearly once they enter school;
  • adultsbetween the ages of 19 and 64 should have an eye exam every two years; and
  • seniorsshould have an eye exam annually.

For more information about Vision Health Month and to locate a Doctor of Optometry in your community, visit

Thanking our Vision Health Month partners and supporters

CNIB is proud to work alongside Doctors of Optometry Canada as our national Vision Health Month partner in 2013. We thank them for their generous support of this campaign, as well as for the donations made by participating Doctors of Optometry through the Vision Health Month Toonie Campaign toward CNIB's community-based services for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted.

CNIB also acknowledges with gratitude the sponsorship support received for Vision Health Month from national retail supporter Loblaw Optical and media partner Postmedia Inc.


Top 10 tips for vision health

Vision loss can happen to anyone, at any age, but many people don't realize that 75 per cent of vision loss can be prevented or treated if detected early, or that there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing eye disease.

In the spirit of helping you take action for your eyes, here are our top 10 tips for keeping your eyes healthy:

  1. Have your eyes examined regularly by a Doctor of Optometry.
    Your eyes need regular check-ups, just like the rest of your body. Early detection of an eye disease is critical to ensuring you can receive treatment that could save your sight. Don't have a Doctor of Optometry? Find one near you using our online Doctor of Optometry Locator tool.

  2. Quit for your eyes.
    People who smoke are three to four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the number one cause of vision loss in Canada. Quitting now can reduce your risk.

  3. Get healthy.
    Research shows that a diet high in fats and low in the nutrients found in fresh vegetables may increase the risk of developing AMD. What's more, excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle and high blood pressure are all risk factors for common eye diseases like AMD and diabetic retinopathy. For a selection of eye-healthy recipes, visit our Eyes Are for Life website.

  4. Protect your eyes from sunlight.
    Exposure to UV rays from the sun puts you at a higher risk of developing AMD and early cataracts. Wear a hat with a brim, and choose sunglasses that provide at least 99% protection from both UVA and UVB rays whenever you're outdoors.

  5. Wear eye protection.
    When playing sports or working with tools, protect your eyes with Canadian Standards Association-approved safety glasses or goggles. You don't need a prescription for them, and most hardware and sporting goods stores carry a good selection.

  6. Consider vitamin supplements.
    If you've been diagnosed with dry AMD, talk to your Doctor of Optometry about using a special formulation of high-dosage vitamin supplements that has been shown to be effective in lowering the risk of developing the advanced form of AMD.

  7. Prevent diabetes
    Most people with diabetes are at a high risk of developing a serious eye disease called diabetic retinopathy as well as other vision problems.

  8. Manage your diabetes
    If you have diabetes, it's crucial that you control your blood pressure, sugar and lipid (fat) levels so that you can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy

  9. Only drink alcohol in moderation
    Heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages is a known risk factor for early cataracts and to increase blood sugar. Keep drinking to a minimum and you'll help reduce your risk.

  10. Take the Eyes Are for Life Quiz
    How much do you know about your vision health? Take the Eyes Are for Life Quiz now to learn more about the risk factors for the most common eye diseases in Canada.

For more information on preventing vision loss, visit today!


Surprise diagnosis reinforces importance of eye exams

John Burke says he's a perfect example of assuming all was well with his health when, in fact, it wasn't.

In the 1970s, Burke was reading and distributing mail as a government worker when he noticed a slight change in his vision. Upon visiting his local Doctor of Optometry, Burke, at the age of 44, received a surprise diagnosis.

"I went into my optometrist's office thinking I just needed a pair of glasses," he says. But a pressure reading, which is part of a regular eye examination, indicated he was already living with glaucoma, an incurable eye condition that, if left untreated, can result in blindness.

"There were no symptoms, no warning signs. I had glaucoma and didn't even realize it," he recalled.

Unfortunately, Burke's story is all too familiar. It is estimated that one in seven Canadians will develop a serious eye disease in their lifetime – and many of those diseases have no symptoms, so they can only be detected through a comprehensive eye exam.

Following his diagnosis, Burke says he immediately began treatment for his glaucoma through daily drops and later, eye surgery that helped relieve pressure. Now 86-years-old, he credits that initial eye exam and his early diagnosis for slowing the progression of his vision loss.

Burke says his message is simple: for Canadians to get an eye exam from their Doctor of Optometry, even when their vision doesn't appear to be compromised.

"Your eyes are for life, so don't take your vision health for granted," he said. 



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Help us change the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted

Researchers estimate that more than one million Canadians are living with vision loss today. As a Partner in Vision, your generous donation of $10 or more a month will help people who are blind or partially sighted build the skills, confidence and independence to enjoy life again – to see beyond vision loss. Become a Partner in Vision


Note:The information provided in this article is for awareness purposes only, and should not replace the expertise of an eye doctor. CNIB recommends that you visit your Doctor of Optometry regularly for thorough eye exams, up-to-date medical information and advice tailored to your own unique vision health and family history.

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