Fast Facts about Vision Loss

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Vision loss

What does “vision loss” mean?

Essentially, vision loss is a significant reduction in vision that affects a person’s life and can’t be fully corrected by glasses or contact lenses. This could be anything from a partial loss of vision to complete blindness.

How many people have vision loss in Canada?

Currently, researchers estimate that more than one million Canadians are living with blindness or a significant loss of vision. (That’s more than the amount of Canadians with breast cancer, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s combined.) This number breaks down to:  
  • 84,000 people in Atlantic Canada.
  • 158,000 people in Quebec.
  • 510,000 people in Ontario.
  • 69,000 people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • 103,000 people in Alberta.
  • 135,000 people in British Columbia.

Who has vision loss?

  • People of all ages can experience vision loss, but as we age, our risk of developing an eye disease that can cause vision loss increases.
  • One in eight Canadians aged 75 or older are living with vision loss. (280,000 Canadians)
  • One in 11 Canadians aged 65 or older are living with vision loss. (432,000 Canadians)
  • 23,000 Canadian children (under 15 years) are living with vision loss.

What are the main causes of vision loss in Canada?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada. There are more than one million Canadians living with AMD, approximately 100,000 of whom have experienced blindness or partial sight as a result.  

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

Future projections

The number of people with vision loss in Canada is projected to increase dramatically in the future. Our population is aging fast, and as we age, we become more susceptible to developing a major eye disease like age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma. What’s more, there’s a higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes in Canada today than there has been in years past, and these are also key risk factors for vision loss.

Without action, the number of Canadians with vision loss has the potential to double within the next 25 years.

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.  

Cost of vision loss

Blindness and vision loss costs Canada’s economy $15.8 billion per year (which breaks down to $500 per Canadian), and this is likely to increase as the number of people with vision loss grows in the future.

This cost is made up of:

  • $8.6 billion (55 per cent) in direct health care costs.
  • $4.4 billion (28 per cent) in lost productivity.
  • $1.8 billion (11 per cent) in transfer costs.
  • $700 million (four per cent) in care and rehabilitation.
  • $305 million (two per cent) in other indirect costs.

Download a full summary of “The Cost of Vision Loss in Canada,” a landmark report published in 2009, which breaks down the annual financial costs of vision loss in Canada.

Realities of vision loss

  • 65 per cent of adults who are blind or partially sighted are not employed, while half are living on meagre salaries of just $20,000 a year or less – despite having higher levels of education than ever before.

  • Only 45 per cent of teens with vision loss graduate high school, compared to 90 per cent of sighted teens.

  • Less than five per cent of all books are published in formats that people with vision loss can access, like braille or audio.

  • Compared to people who are sighted, people with vision loss experience:
    • two to five times as much difficulty with daily living.
    • three times as much clinical depression.
    • twice as much social dependence.
    • a greater number of medication errors.
    • twice the risk of falls and premature death.
    • four times the risk of serious hip fractures.
    • premature admission to nursing homes (three years earlier on average).

Want to know more?

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. 

Sources
  • Future projections from Dr. Keith Gordon, CNIB Vice President of Research and Service Quality (2011), based on “Participation and Activity Limitations Survey 2006,” published by the Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada

  • “The Cost of Vision Loss in Canada” summary report, published by CNIB and the Canadian Opthalmological Society, 2009

  • “Foundations for a Canadian Vision Health Strategy,” published by Buhrmann R., Hodge W., Gold. D., 2007
     

  • “An Unequal Playing Field: Report on the Needs of People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Living in Canada,” published by CNIB, 2005

  • CNIB Electronic Vision Rehabilitation Record client database, 2011
 
 
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