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The cost of vision loss and blindness in Canada

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The cost of vision loss and blindness in Canada

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The economic and social costs of vision loss and blindness in Canada, highlighting the need for improved eye care and innovative treatments.

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The economic impact of vision loss and blindness:

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As one of the key senses, eye health is essential for people to live healthy, productive and fulfilling lives. However, according to a 2019 report by the Canadian Council for the Blind, it was estimated that 1.2 million Canadians are living with blindness and vision loss which can’t be fully corrected by glasses and lenses.

The costs of vision loss are multi-dimensional and include loss of wellbeing, employment barriers for individuals and strain on their friends and family. Due to the scope of this issue, it’s not only individuals being affected by vision loss, but also Canadian society at large.

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Breakdown of costs

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In 2019, the total economic cost of vision loss and blindness in Canada was evaluated at around $32.9 billion which includes:

 

  • 1. Healthcare system costs: In 2019, healthcare system costs for vision loss were appraised at around $9.5 billion. This includes visits to eye doctors and general practitioners, hospitalization, treatment, eyewear and prescription drugs. In addition to the costs of treating vision loss, this number also includes visits to the emergency room and treatment for falls as a result of vision loss or blindness.
  • 2. Loss of productivity: Costs of reduced productivity were estimated at $4.3 billion, which includes early retirement, withdrawal from the workplace, time off, reduced productivity while at work and premature mortality. Decreased productivity is largely a result of people not having access to assistive devices and rehabilitative services that allow them to be successful in their role.
  • 3. Cost to individuals and families: Vision loss not only affects individuals, but also the people who need to take care of them. Families and caregivers may need to take time off work to care for the person with vision loss, which also reduces their contribution to the workforce. Additionally, many aids, equipment and home modifications for people with vision loss aren’t covered by the government or insurance and must be paid out of pocket.
  • 4. Loss of wellbeing: Loss of wellbeing is the most substantial cost to the economy, estimated at $17.4 billion. This number represents reduced quality of life for people with vision loss and premature death. Vision loss—especially for those who develop vision loss later in life—significantly impairs a person’s ability to function in everyday life which may result in disability status or in extreme cases, premature death. Premature death is mainly a result of increased social isolation and higher risk of falls.

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Reducing the impact of vision loss

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While vision loss and blindness pose a significant cost to the economy, the report predicted that 71 per cent or $23.5 billion of costs are preventable if the impacts of vision loss can be minimized. Importantly, these costs are expected to increase from $32.9 billion in 2019 to $56 billion in 2050 as the population structure in Canada changes. As such, it’s imperative that Canada takes a proactive approach to reduce the impact on the economy.

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Strategies to reduce vision loss costs

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  • 1. Improve access to routine eye exams: Providing government-insured eye care is essential for protecting and improving eye health and promoting equity in Canada. Currently, coverage for eye exams differs by province/territory, but it’s essential that all Canadians have access to eye exams—especially for high-risk populations such as those with a family history of eye disease, those who have conditions that put them at increased risk (e.g., diabetes) or who are above the age of 55.
  • 2. Improving wait times: Long wait times for procedures such as cataract day surgeries not only prolong the progression of vision loss but also increase the risk for falls while the individual waits. As such, reducing wait times for treatment prevents further vision loss while saving money on hospitalization for falls.
  • 3. Improving support and accessibility: Providing support and assistive devices for people with vision loss helps them continue with daily activities and improves productivity in the workplace. These supports include assistive devices such as magnifiers, book alternatives and electronic mobile devices, in addition to habilitative and rehabilitative services which help people live with vision loss.
  • 4. Investing in new technology: It’s essential to continue to invest in new technology and assistive devices to improve the quality of life for people with vision loss and create new options for treatment. For example, MacuMira Vision Therapy is a new non-invasive treatment for dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) that helps slow the progression of the disease to mitigate impacts on vision loss, wellbeing and overall quality of life.

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Collaborative efforts for better eye health in Canada

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Improving eye health in Canada is about preventing eye disease, improving the wellbeing of those living with vision loss, ensuring equity and cost saving for public spending. Going forward, collaboration is required from a variety of fields including healthcare, technology, policy makers, advocacy groups and governments to remove barriers to regular eye exams and supports while continuing to innovate new treatments and technologies.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of dry AMD, it’s essential to seek professional advice and explore treatment options. MacuMira Vision Therapy is a groundbreaking, non-invasive treatment approved for dry AMD in North America. Consult your eye care provider today to see if MacuMira Vision Therapy could help stabilize and improve your vision, enhancing your quality of life.

Don’t wait—take the first step towards better eye health and a brighter future.

 

Disclaimer: Always speak to your primary health care provider and/or eye care provider before making any changes to your lifestyle, activities or diet.

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