Diabetes Awareness Month highlights the importance of regular eye care as vision loss prevention: Canadian Ophthalmological Society

Tuesday November 8, 2022

National survey reveals Canadians are unaware of the associated risks of diabetes on eye health

Toronto, ON – November 8, 2022 – November marks Diabetes Awareness Month and to help educate Canadians, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) wants to remind Canadians of the various complications that are associated with diabetes, specifically diabetic retinopathy (DR), an eye disease that can lead to vision loss. Around 5.7 million Canadians are affected by diabetes today yet according to a recent survey by the COS, only six per cent of Canadians concerned about their eye health say they had their eyes checked due to diabetes over the past year. 

“To date, one-third of Canadians are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes which means they are at risk of getting diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness among Canadians,” says Dr. Phil Hooper, President of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. “For those living with diabetes, the best way to protect against vision loss is early detection, so it’s crucial for Canadians to book regular eye exams with an eye care professional who can detect the disease early, and provide necessary treatment or referral tailored to the specific type of retinal changes diagnosed.”

The recent national survey conducted by the COS, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Optometrists, identified gaps in the vision health system to help guide future interventions and address eye health issues across the country. The survey findings underscored a critical need to create a National Vision Health Desk at the Public Health Agency of Canada and develop and implement a National Vision Strategy. Meanwhile, the findings also revealed that many Canadians are unaware of the associated risks of diabetes on eye health, and only 31 per cent of Canadians can identify DR as one of the leading causes of blindness. 

With 9.3 million Canadians diagnosed with this disease in the past two years, Diabetes Awareness Month is an opportunity to further educate Canadians about this disease and renew the call for a National Vision Health Desk at the Public Health Agency of Canada. The implementation of the national strategy for eye care would allow for more education and awareness of DR and other various eye diseases. 

Diabetes can damage blood vessels in the retina over time, which causes DR – one of the four major eye diseases – and can have various stages and degrees of severity. Symptoms do not arise until the disease has been present for some time and treatment at this stage is more difficult which is why regular eye examinations are critical for people living with diabetes. To reduce the risk of retinopathy people with diabetes should regularly  monitor and manage their levels of blood sugar to achieve tight control, and control blood pressure, and cholesterol.

In the early stages diabetic retinopathy produces no symptoms. More advanced disease can produce: 

To learn more about the risk factors, diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, visit seethepossibilities.ca.  

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About 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. The 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). For more information, visit cos-sco.ca.

About the Survey

An online survey of 2003 Canadians aged 18+ was completed between June 10 and June 21, 2022, using Leger’s online panel. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (i.e., a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 2003 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.2%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90%.

For more information, please contact:

Bojana Duric, [email protected], BlueSky Communications