Canadian Vision Health Is Getting Worse: Here’s Why

More than 1.2 million Canadians live with vision loss.

A report from the Canadian Council of the Blind and Fighting Blindness Canada recently revealed that eye health in the country is dipping at alarming rates. More than 1.2 million Canadians live with vision loss, while over eight million experience one of the four major diseases, such as glaucoma, retinal diseases, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Most residents believe that this is caused by advanced age when the reality is that these eye issues are present across all ages. Additionally, a Yahoo! Finance article on Canada’s vision care revealed that the government has already spent $15.6 billion for its residents, but the current decline in vision health is expected to cost $56 billion by 2050. Considering that good vision is essential to overall wellness, it’s important to understand why Canada is seeing these patterns in regard to vision health.

Most Canadians neglect eye exams

Getting a comprehensive eye exam from an optometrist or ophthalmologist is important in maintaining vision since they can assess the health of the eyes and determine any pressing conditions that need immediate treatment. Unfortunately, a Clearly report titled Eyes on Canada: Are Canadians Taking Care of Their Vision? revealed that around 34% of Canadians are overdue for an eye exam. Adults are recommended to schedule an eye exam once every 24 months to stay on top of their eye health, but children need one each year. Bypassing this means otherwise “simple” issues like astigmatism can go undiagnosed and end up worsening over time. Since eye exams can also catch other chronic ailments like diabetes, skipping them is an added disadvantage, as conditions like this encourage the development of more serious vision problems like diabetic retinopathy.

One of the biggest reasons why people are missing out on eye exams is lack of access. As per Toula Drimonis’ feature on health inequity within Canada, some communities have difficulty accessing basic healthcare. This is largely due to a lack of linguistic and culturally sensitive options. As such, it is important that the Canadian government distribute health funds accordingly to address the eye problems encountered by its diverse population, especially the disadvantaged communities.

Screen time is increasing rapidly

As school, work, and recreational activities can all be done through online means, there has been a growing reliance on using devices for long periods of time. Students depend on their devices to access online learning tools, while some adults conduct all of their workload in front of a computer screen. Additionally, the internet and technology have made socializing easier through the use of personal devices, which is why most people find it easier to stay glued to a screen. All in all, the average Canadian spends over three hours in front of a screen daily. According to Statistics Canada, this means that nearly 60% of adults meet the threshold for screen time.

While taking time away from devices can be helpful, some people (like the aforementioned workers and students) are required to stay online for long hours at a time to complete their daily tasks. To address this, some people use blue light glasses, as mentioned in a post from Medical News Today. These glasses have filters to block out the harsh light emitted by screens, reducing the risk of eye strain, symptoms of dry eyes, and other discomforts that can affect eye health. That said, these glasses are not the only solution to the issue of overexposure to screens. Experts agree that there is a pressing need to employ healthy habits that can better counter the ill effects of too much screen use. An example of this is the 20-20-20 rule that teaches people to take 20-second breaks by staring at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This is meant to help exercise the eyes to reduce strain and exhaustion.

Climate change is affecting eye health

Climate change is a pressing topic lately since it greatly affects many aspects, from the environment to the economy. However, an effect of climate change that gets ignored is the threat it poses to eye health. To illustrate, climate change causes higher ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, and prolonged exposure to this can lead to light sensitivity, cataract formation, blurry vision, and cancers of the eyelid. This is especially worrisome as the government’s UV Index and Sun Safety report reveal that the country is subjected to extreme UV levels.

In line with this, CTV News published information detailing the link between higher temperatures and vision impairment for adults in advanced age. Climate change is the leading cause of rising temperature rates across the globe, and this can make older adults more vulnerable to declining vision.

This article was produced in collaboration with writer Troy E. Odom.

For our latest in news, please visit the News section.