Main Content

Study shows only half of Canadians seek treatment for symptoms of potential eye disease that may lead to vision loss

The Canadian Ophthalmological Society sheds light onto Canadian eye health behaviours during National Vision Health Month

TORONTO, ON, May 1, 2018 – A new survey, commissioned by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS), revealed the majority of Canadians (59 per cent) experience symptoms of potential eye disease, yet only half of these people (54 per cent) reported they had seen a health care professional. This is particularly concerning as early detection is key in preventing eye disease from progressing or resulting in vision loss or blindness. Ophthalmologists – the physicians that specialize in medical and surgical eye care – are committed to preventing vision loss and helping people maintain healthy eyes and vision as they age. With National Vision Health Month happening in May, they are emphasizing the importance of having regular medical eye exams, as part of the ongoing See the Possibilities campaign by the COS to raise awareness about eye health.

“We were concerned that a majority of Canadians may be experiencing early symptoms of potential eye disease, yet have not had a medical eye exam,” says Dr. Phil Hooper, MD, FRCSC. “Regular, dilated comprehensive eye exams are important as some serious eye diseases produce no symptoms at all until they are very advanced. If these diseases are caught early, effective treatments are available to preserve vision. This is even more important in those who are experiencing changes to their vision, who have a family history of eye disease, or have a chronic disease such as diabetes.”

Eye symptoms reported by Canadians included difficulty seeing at night (27 per cent), problems reading up close (25 per cent), blurry vision (22 per cent), red, watery eyes (22 per cent), seeing flashes of light (10 per cent) and double vision (6 per cent). Some of these symptoms may develop as a result of serious eye disease.

When it comes to eye health, knowledge is power, yet awareness of common eye diseases in Canada is low. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada [1], yet the majority (51 per cent) of Canadians are not familiar with the disease or the severe damage it can cause. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Canadians under 50 and diabetic retinopathy affects half a million Canadians [2]. Even with its strong prevalence in Canada, almost half (41 per cent) of Canadians have never heard of this disease and a third (34 per cent) only recognize the name but not the condition. Other common eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts, can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam. In the case of glaucoma, if caught early, effective treatments are available to preserve vision.

The study also showed that millennials (18-34 year olds) have even lower awareness of major eye diseases than the national average and were less likely to see a physician (44 per cent) after experiencing common symptoms of potential eye disease.

“A common misconception is that regular eye exams are just to correct vision, but they are also key to the overall health of the eye,” says Dr. Hooper.

Last year, the COS launched the See The Possibilities campaign, educating Canadians about eye health and the important role ophthalmologists play in eye health care. Visit www.seethepossibilities.ca to find remarkable patient stories, along with new and interesting innovations from Canadian ophthalmologists.

About the Canadian Ophthalmological Society

The Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) is the national, recognized authority on eye and vision care in Canada. As eye physicians and surgeons, we are committed to assuring the provision of optimal medical and surgical eye care for all Canadians by promoting excellence in ophthalmology and by providing services to support our members in practice. Our membership includes over 900 ophthalmologists and 200 ophthalmology residents. We work collaboratively with government, other national and international specialty societies, our academic communities (ACUPO), our provincial partners and affiliates and other eye care professionals and patient groups to advocate for health policy in Canada in the area of eye and vision health. COS is an accredited, award-winning provider of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and is an affiliate of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

About the survey

The survey was conducted online in March 2018 among 1,004 adults in Canada aged 18+ by Fuse Insights, on behalf of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. The survey was conducted online in English and French, and the sample was drawn to ensure that respondents were representative of the national population by geography, age and gender. A probability sample of this size would be associated with a margin of error of 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

For further information please visit COS’s web site or Facebook and Instagram (@SeeThePossibilitiesCA).

For media inquiries please contact: Kristi Iannuzzi, The Colony Project, T: (289) 242-1024, E: Kristi.ianuzzi@colonyproject.com