Primary Care Resources - Vision

Vision loss can be partial (involving one eye or parts of visual field) or complete (involving both eyes).  Vision loss can be considered a loss of sight that may occur either gradually or suddenly.  Age-related macular degeneration is Canada’s leading cause of vision loss. (4)

Why is it important?

  • 1 in 11 individuals over the age of 65 are living with vision loss (4)
  • Individuals with vision loss or impairment  experience 2 times the incidence of difficulties in daily living and social  dependence, falls, mortality rate; 3 times the incidence of depression; 4 times the incidence of hip fractures (8)

Common Causes

  • Tunnel vision (loss of visual acuity in peripheral fields) can be caused by damage to optic nerve, retina, or to visual input-processing brain areas (6)
  • Long-term double-vision may result in one eye becoming amblyopic (a lazy eye), leading to vision loss
  • Double-vision can occur from impairment of eye muscles, lens, cornea, brain, nerves or from diseases such as stroke, diabetes, myasthenia gravis, Grave’s disease(6)
  • Other common causes of vision loss include damage to the eye, cataracts, detached retina, floaters, glaucoma, and  diabetic retinopathy.(4) The increasing prevalence of diabetes and obesity are likely increase prevalence of vision loss.

Key Considerations

  • Symptoms of vision deterioration include: uncontrolled eye movement, squinting, difficulty driving at night, clumsy movement, falling due to misstep, seeing light flashes, and choosing bright colors (5)
  • Regular eye exams can detect age-related changes, referral to an optometrist may be required; vision can be maintained through corrective glasses, medication or surgery
  • Manage diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia; encourage smoking cessation; reduce ultraviolet light exposure; and appropriately respond to medication adverse effects (7)
  • 75% of vision loss can be prevented or treated by an early diagnosis and through lifestyle choices such as wearing UV-protective glasses, controlling diabetes, exercising, getting the right amount of vitamins, maintaining a smoke-free environment, and consuming a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and dark, leafy greens (4)
  • Encourage communication through use of tools such as alternative large print formats, magnification devices,  tactile clues, adaptive computer equipment, individualized light settings
  • Refer to:
      • The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians runs a number of national programs and events, in addition to offering online discussion tools, chapters and affiliates, and direct support to those who are blind, deaf-blind and  partially sighted (1)
      • The Canadian Council of the Blind offers programs on education bursaries, legal advice, advocacy (2)
      • The Canadian Helen Keller Centre provides one-on-one support/training for deaf-blind seniors and family  members (3)
      • C.N.I.B. is a national non-profit rehabilitation agency that provides services for individual who are blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind


1.  A.E.B.C. (2014). Programs. Retrieved February 2014 from:

2.  Canadian Council of the Blind. (2014). News/Information. Retrieved February 2014 from:

3.  Canadian Helen Keller Centre. (2014). Home. Retrieved February 2014 from:

4.  CNIB. (2014). Fast Facts about Vision Loss. Retrieved February 2014 from:

5.  Health Canada. (2006). Seniors and Aging- Vision Care. Retrieved February 2014 from:

6.  MedicineNet. (2014). Vision Loss. Retrieved February 2014 from:

7.  Pelletier, A. et al. (2009). Vision Loss in Older Persons. Am Fam Physician, 79(11), 963-970. 
     Retrieved February 2014 from:

8.  The National Coalition for Vision Health. (2011). Vision Loss in Canada. Retrieved February 2014 from: