Fast Facts about Vision Loss

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What does “vision loss” mean?

“Vision loss” is an inclusive term that covers all people who are blind or partially sighted, including people who have no sight from birth, people who are legally blind (meaning they have a best-corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or worse and/or a visual field of less than 20 degrees in the better eye), as well as people with vision loss below these levels. In addition to low visual acuity and narrowed visual field, vision loss can also be characterized by other forms of impairment such as loss of depth perception or contrast sensitivity.

How many people have vision loss in Canada?

Approximately half a million Canadians are estimated to be living with significant vision loss that impacts their quality of life, and every year more than 50,000 Canadians will lose their sight. This figure includes people who have no sight from birth, people who are legally blind, as well as people with less significant vision loss.

Residents with vision loss or partial sight by province:

Ontario: 186,954
Quebec: 109,560
British Columbia: 64,546
Alberta: 52,899
Manitoba: 17,244
Saskatchewan: 14,256
Nova Scotia: 12,946
New Brunswick: 10,308
Newfoundland and Labrador: 6,865
Prince Edward Island: 1,982
Northwest Territories: 605
Yukon Territory: 465
Nunavut: 453

Source: Calculations made by Dr. Keith Gordon, CNIB Vice President Research based on Ralf Buhrmann et al., Foundation for a Canadian Vision Health Strategy. Prepared for the National Coalition for Vision Health Jan 2007 and Statistics Canada, Population of Census Metropolitan Areas and Population by Province 2013.

What causes vision loss?

There are more than 5.5 million Canadians with a major eye disease that could cause vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada. There are about 1.4 million Canadians living with AMD, many of whom have vision loss or are at risk.  

Other major causes of vision loss include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts and refractive error.

Future projections

The prevalence of vision loss in Canada is expected to increase nearly 30 per cent in the next decade. Canada is facing a growing yet preventable crisis in vision health. A demographic shift caused by our aging population has led to a mounting epidemic of vision loss in Canada, as well as a growing human and resource crisis in vision health care.

The population of Canadians 65 and older is expected to double in the next 25 years. In addition, there is a growing incidence of key underlying causes of vision loss, such as obesity and diabetes. Without action, the number of people with sight problems in Canada is likely to increase dramatically. Meanwhile, a severe capacity shortage in ophthalmology is predicted, with older doctors retiring and an insufficient number of new graduates to meet the increasing demand of the aging population.

Prevention

Few people realize that 75 per cent of vision loss can be treated or prevented. But without the vision health information they need, hundreds of thousands of Canadians unknowingly live with eye disease and may needlessly lose their vision.

By visiting an eye care professional regularly, we increase our chances of getting a diagnosis if we have an eye disease. The earlier the diagnosis, the greater the opportunity to minimize vision loss.

You can also help to avoid vision loss by making simple lifestyle changes like wearing UV-protective sunglasses all year round, taking vitamins, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, controlling diabetes and maintaining a healthy diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and dark, leafy greens. 

Realities of vision loss

  • Only one-third of Canadian working-age adults with vision loss are employed.

  • Older people with vision loss (60+) are three times more likely than those with good vision to experience clinical depression.

  • Approximately half of Canadian working-age adults with vision loss are struggling to make ends meet on $20,000 a year or less.

  • People with vision loss are at greater risk of social isolation and reduced community participation.

If you’d like more information about vision loss, please send information inquiries to research@cnib.ca and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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