October 8, 2020

Why Vision Loss Should Not be Overlooked

Ophthalmologists help people maintain healthy eyes.

By treating vision loss, ophthalmic interventions will prevent $1.6 billion in direct health care costs from avoided injuries and other health care needs in 2020. By 2040, this will reach $4 billion.

Vision loss has an enormous impact on:

  • People’s quality of life—Vision loss can lead to human suffering from social isolation, mental and physical health issues, and loss of independence.
  • Different populations—Although vision loss increases with age, it can affect anyone, including children, those living with diabetes, and young adults.
  • The Canadian economy—Health care costs from hospitals, physicians, and drugs, as well as indirect costs from lost productivity, make vision loss the fourth most expensive health condition in Canada. 

What is the impact of not treating vision loss?

Vision loss can result in loss of employment or underemployment. It also increases the risk of dangerous and costly injuries such as hip fractures due to falls. People affected by vision loss can experience higher levels of depression and anxiety, admission into long-term care, and a greater need for home care and caregiver services.

Most eye conditions progress over time. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect disease while it is most treatable and preserve vision.

How can ophthalmologists help? 

An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of all eye diseases. As leaders of the eye care team, they collaborate with other physicians, optometrists, and opticians to provide the best possible care for people with all types of eye disease.

Looking at the economy

People with good vision need less informal care and have more employment opportunities. From a societal perspective, there is a huge incentive to treat vision loss and boost productivity.

While treating vision loss costs money up front, there is a positive return on investment from averted direct and indirect costs.

Download the impact paper
blind man walking with his aid dog; visually impaired woman exiting an airplane
>In 2020, ophthalmic interventions prevented $6.4 billion in direct health care costs and savings to society, and this number will reach $15.7 billion by 2040.

a blind young boy is using braille to read a text book


Seeing clearly can lead to cost savings

Year Total costs of ophthalmic interventions Direct
Total cost
Return on
2020 $1.64 billion $1.62 billion $4.81 billion $6.43 billion $4.79 billion 
2030 $2.56 billion $2.53 billion $7.51 billion $10.04 billion $7.48 billion 
2040 $3.99 billion $3.95 billion $11.74 billion $15.69 billion $11.70 billion 

Source: The Conference Board of Canada

Despite these benefits, the future of eye care is blurry

The demand for ophthalmic interventions will keep increasing as the population gets older and better treatment options become available. And while demand might be high, need may be even higher—access to eye care varies with geography and socioeconomic status.

Will ophthalmologists be able to keep up?

Studies show that the supply of ophthalmologists is not following the rise in demand.

We need solutions to ensure every Canadian at risk of losing their vision can be helped:

  • Better workforce planning—Develop better supply and demand models to meet future needs in vision care.
  • Support innovation—Encourage the adoption of new drugs and technologies by removing unnecessary regulatory and financial barriers.
  • Increase collaboration—Develop collaborative models that ensure the highest standards and most appropriate care for the patient. 
  • National strategy—To address key challenge and opportunities with the future of eye care in Canada.

While being able to see is invaluable, we must not lose sight of its benefits to Canadians, our health care systems, and society at large.

woman at an opthalmologist office getting her eyes tested on modern equipment



The Conference Board of Canada created this online experience with funding and support from the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. In keeping with Conference Board guidelines for custom research, the design and method of research, as well as the content of this study, were determined solely by the Conference Board.