FAQ - About vision loss

How does vision loss affect people?

As you might imagine, vision loss can be devastating. Many people who are newly diagnosed even suffer from serious depression. Seemingly ordinary, everyday activities such as traveling to familiar and unfamiliar places, caring for a child or an ailing parent, reading a newspaper and succeeding at work can all present extraordinary challenges. Family relationships may become strained. And without assistance in adjusting to vision loss, many people (particularly seniors) may live in isolation and fear.

But with the support and expertise of an organization such as CNIB, people with vision loss learn how to do things differently. They are able to get around independently, succeed in the workplace, read a newspaper again and take control of their lives.

At CNIB, people with vision loss are connected with professional low-vision assessments, peer support and counselling, life-skills training and safe travel techniques, and a whole range of services that become part of their personalized program for success.

Do people who have vision loss really need help? If they can live independently, do they need special services?

People with vision loss definitely can live independently, but the experience of losing your vision can be difficult, and often people need to learn new ways to do things to regain their independence. CNIB has the experience and expertise that people need to learn how to get their lives back. We can also connect people to counselling or peer support that they may need to adjust to living with vision loss.

And once people have learned to adjust, there are still vital CNIB resources and services that they rely on. For example, CNIB's Library has the books and information people need to stay in touch with the world and succeed in education or a career. Our consumer products allow people to access the latest tools and technology to facilitate independence. CNIB is there for people to help them achieve their goals at every stage of living with vision loss.

How many people in Canada are affected by vision loss? How big of a concern is it?

Approximately half-a-million (479,000) Canadians are estimated to be living with significant vision loss that impacts their quality of life.

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 vison loss, such as obesity and diabetes. Without action, the number of people with sight problems in Canada is likely to increase dramatically over the next 25 years.

There are also the fundamental inequalities that people with vision loss face. For example, only one-third of Canadian working-age adults with vision loss are employed. Older people with vision loss (60+) are three times for likely than those with good vision to experience clinical depression. Approximately half of Canadians working-age adults with vision loss are struggling to make ends meet on $20,000 a year or less. And, people with vision loss are at greater risk of social isolation and reduced community participation.

What are the most common causes of vision loss in Canada?

The most common cause is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Along with AMD, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts are the four major causes of vision loss in Canada today.

What about vision loss around the world? Is it a big concern in developing countries?

Vision loss is an enormous problem in developing countries. CNIB devotes a portion of our revenues to assisting people in developing countries. A recent project involved AIDS/HIV education for people living with vision loss in Africa. We frequently share expertise and best practices with other countries in the vision rehabilitation field. For example, CNIB has helped several countries in the Caribbean to develop library services for their citizens with vision loss.

How do I get information on vision loss topics?

You’ll find a range of information about vision loss and eye disease within the Your Eyes section of this site. You can also visit our Shop CNIB webstore’s Publications page to browse books and other publications about vision loss that are available for purchase.

Is CNIB working to eliminate vision loss in future?

CNIB's public education programs help people to take proactive measures to prevent eye disease. We also invest about $1.25 million each year funding and conducting research, and support education by training scientists in the vision health field at the nation's foremost universities and health-care centres. Our medical research projects look for ways to cure and treat eye disease. Some recent studies we funded looked at treatments for macular degeneration, retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye) and corneal disease. We concentrate on eliminating future vision loss, as well as providing vital programs and services for those who currently have it.