Here, how to protect your sight and common conditions to keep an eye on.

According to the CNIB, 836,000 Canadians live with significant vision loss — including one in 11 adults over the age of 65 and one in seven adults over the age of 75. By 2031, the number of people living with age-related macular degeneration — one of the most common causes of vision loss — will double from one to two million.

There are four main conditions behind the majority of vision loss in Canada, and increasing age puts us at an increased risk for each one.


- Glaucoma: this group of diseases causes the fluid pressure in the eye to increase, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss and blindness. There are no symptoms in the diseases’ early stages, and treatment (eye drops or surgery) can only protect future vision loss rather than restoring sight.

- Cataracts: it’s a common condition where the lens becomes cloudy or opaque, blocking normal vision. Some early signs include blurred or hazy vision, or “spots” in front of the eyes. Cataracts are more common in people over the age of 55 than in younger generations, but people of any age can get them.

- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition where the centre of your vision becomes blurry and distorted due to damage to the macula (part of the retina). Peripheral vision stays the same, but patients have a hard time seeing fine detail, like reading, recognizing faces or driving.

- Diabetic eye disease: statistics show that as many as 45 per cent of people with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels in the retina). They also face an increased risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.

All of these conditions are most common after the age of 50, but age isn’t the only risk factor. Genetics also plays a role: people of certain ethnic descent or who have a family history of eye disease are at higher risk. Some conditions affect more men than women (or vice versa). Excessive sun exposure and poor nutrition can also affect eye health.

(For a complete list of eye conditions and more detailed information, visit the National Eye Institute and Canadian Association of Optometrists websites.)

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Elizabeth Rogers