Can You See? Low Vision and the Workplace

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Low vision occurs when your visual acuity is between 20/50 and 20/200 with conventional prescription lenses and cannot be further corrected with conventional lenses or with surgery. While we may think of low vision as primarily affecting those in their retirement years, a large proportion of those at risk of low vision are part of today’s working population.  Once an individual is diagnosed with a condition that puts them at risk for low vision or if they are genetically predisposed, it is critical to for their condition to be addressed through monitoring and control. If vision loss develops it can be significant enough to cause considerable limitation in the performance of activities of daily living – driving, reading, sorting laundry, etc.

What Causes Low Vision?

As we age, many of us have trouble reading the fine print.  Symptoms of vision deterioration associated with low vision include tunnel vision, blind spots or trouble seeing in the dark. If you have been told you have diabetes, macular degeneration, or glaucoma, or are at risk of those conditions, then you are at a higher risk of progressing towards low vision, particularly as you age. Your family history, congenital factors, injuries, and cancers can also lead to low vision. When diseases that can affect vision and lead to low vision are diagnosed and treated early, they can often be well managed, helping to keep those who are in the working age population at work and productive.

How can the risk be mitigated?

Perhaps, the most important thing one can do to mitigate the risk is to make appointments for a comprehensive eye exam every 12 to 24 months depending on age and risk factors. This is especially important for those diagnosed with or at risk of developing one or more of the conditions already mentioned. At the exam, the optometrist quite literally sees into the blood vessels in the eye. They can detect diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other conditions and put individuals on course to prevent or reduce further deterioration of their vision. They will also work with or refer the patient to their doctor, ophthalmologist, or another medical specialist to keep them on that course.

With little to no public vision coverage in most provinces for working adults, group vision care benefits are an invaluable way to provide a valuable opportunity for the early detection and treatment of diseases associated with low vision. However, most vision care plans today do not reimburse plan members for many of the follow-up examination, screening, monitoring and treatment for those with diseases that can lead to low vision.  Simple and relatively inexpensive changes in group vision care coverage can address this gap.

That’s why the work the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) is spearheading the Don’t Lose Sight initiative. The CAO has proposed new vision care options be made available to plan sponsors to address the shortfalls in existing coverage levels. CAO is working with insurers and other healthcare stakeholders to advocate for the vision care coverage needs of working Canadians. Those who understand the relatively low cost of providing prevention and management for low vision are seeing the value in appropriate coverage for their plan members.

 

Low Vision Management: Living with Low Sight

Those individuals that progress to low vision and experience deterioration in their sight will be a heavier financial burden on group benefit plans, requiring assistive devices, and counselling for their mental and physical wellbeing. For some, working will no longer be possible and they may have to rely on plan sponsor disability benefits. No one wants this kind of outcome.

Look for more from the CAO on modernizing vision care and providing support to prevent and manage diseases that can lead to vision loss through our blogs, podcasts, and webinars. Want more? You can find our white paper, guidebook and posts at Don’t Lose Sight at or contact us directly at dontlosesight@opto.ca or 1 888 263 4676 ext. 221.