The thought of losing your sight can be scary. After all, you rely on your vision every day. In the United States, 32.2 million adults have suffered vision loss.Worldwide, an estimated 285 million people are visually impaired. Among them, 39 million are blind.??
Some vision loss occurs suddenly. Other times it is done gradually. Partial blindness refers to limited vision, and complete blindness Where blindness it’s when you can’t see anything, including the light.Here is information on some of the most common causes of vision loss, including cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of your eye. It is the most common cause of age-related vision loss.In addition to age, diabetes, eye damage, excessive sun exposure, and other factors can accelerate the formation of cataracts.??
Eye surgeons can remove cataracts. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States. This means that cataracts can literally cloud your vision, but it doesn’t have to be permanent.
Signs and symptoms
Here are some signs and symptoms of cataracts:
- Cloudy vision
- Double vision
- Vision problems at night or in dim light
- Glare problems
- Reduced color intensity
- See halos around the lights
Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that affects central vision. You use your sharp central vision to see objects clearly and for everyday tasks like reading and driving. Also called age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, this eye disorder affects the macula, located at the back of the eye. The macula is part of the retina.
Macular degeneration occurs more frequently after age 60 and is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50.. It is estimated that 11 million people in the United States live with macular degeneration. Health experts predict that number will increase as the population ages.
There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Wet AMD is considered to be a more advanced disease than dry AMD. An advanced form of dry macular degeneration is called geographic atrophy. A person may have dry macular degeneration which turns into wet macular degeneration.
Both types of AMD can affect one or both eyes. Wet and dry AMD can develop slowly or quickly.??
Accounts for 85-90% of advanced vision loss in AMD cases
Caused by blood vessels growing behind the macula at the back of the eye.
A common cause of legal blindness in the United StatesHowever, if it’s caught early, you can usually keep most of your vision.
Accounts for 10-15% of advanced vision loss in AMD
Caused by drusen, a waste of metabolism, which accumulates under the retina.
Does not cause blindness, but can drastically affect central vision
Signs and symptoms
Dry macular degeneration:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty reading printouts or seeing details
- Faded colors
- A blurry spot in the center of your vision that gets bigger over time
Wet macular degeneration:
- A small dot in the center of your vision that gets bigger over time
- Distortion of straight lines, or straight lines may appear wavy
Diabetic retinopathy can develop when you have diabetes. It happens when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels at the back of the eye. Blood vessels may leak, get larger, develop new blood vessels, or close completely.??
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy. Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy is the earliest stage and proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the most advanced stage. However, both can have serious effects on vision. In the United States, more than 7.7 million people live with diabetic retinopathy.??
Signs and symptoms
Diabetic retinopathy may not always show signs. This is why regular eye checks are important, especially when you have diabetes. Some signs of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurred vision or sometimes clear and sometimes blurry vision
- Have empty or dark areas in your vision
- Have less color intensity in your vision
- Poor vision at night
- See more floats
Diseases that increase the risk of vision loss
Certain diseases increase the risk of developing vision loss. Sometimes the disease itself causes changes that affect vision.
Other times, vision loss is associated with a certain disease or condition, and researchers are still trying to separate the link. For example, cognitive decline was found to be 3.5 times greater in adults with visual impairments than in those without visual impairment.??
Vision loss associated with some illnesses can occur slowly over time. Sometimes there are no other symptoms until the vision loss is more advanced. That’s why doctors will recommend more frequent eye exams for people with certain health conditions and illnesses, including:
- Cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease
- Arterial hypertension
- Kidney disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatic diseases such as lupus
Glaucoma refers to several eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, located at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to vision loss or blindness. There are several types of glaucoma. The most common type in the United States is open-angle glaucoma, or OAG. In the United States, more than 3 million people live with the OAG.??
Glaucoma becomes more common with age, especially after 60 years. It is also more common in blacks, Hispanics, or people with a family history of glaucoma.??
Signs and symptoms
Initially, glaucoma may have no symptoms. That’s why regular eye exams are important, especially as you get older. However, the most common symptom of GAO is loss of your side or peripheral vision.
Loss of central vision vs loss of peripheral vision
A key difference between macular degeneration and glaucoma is the area of ââthe eyes that each disorder affects. Macular degeneration affects your central vision. As the name suggests, this is the area in the center of the eye. This is the area of ââvision you use the most and for a wide range of tasks, including reading and driving.
Peripheral vision is your side vision. If you look straight ahead, peripheral vision is the vision on either side of you. You may also hear about âtunnel visionâ. Losing your peripheral vision can be dangerous.
Another type of glaucoma called acute narrow-angle glaucoma requires emergency treatment by an eye doctor.Symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma include:
- A night flight
- Blurred vision
- Stomach pain or nausea
- Severe eye pain
Other causes of vision loss
Although cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma are the most common causes of vision loss, there are other causes of vision loss. These include:
- dry eye
- Eye injury
- Congenital causes: a problem with your vision that you have had since you were born
- Lazy eye
- Presbyopia: a normal change in your ability to see close-up objects in middle age
- Retinal detachment
- Retinopathy of prematurity: can occur in premature babies when the blood vessels in the eye are not mature
- Serious eye infection
- Strabismus: An imbalance in the positioning of the eyes
- Thyroid eye disease
- Trachoma: Caused by a specific bacterial infection. It is more common in developing countries. It is the most common infectious cause of blindness worldwide.??
- A tumor in or around the eye
- An uncorrected refractive error
Diagnose the cause of vision loss
Anytime your vision changes, you need to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Many times the cause can be as simple as a change in your refractive error, and maybe you need new glasses or contact lenses. Sometimes, however, it can mean that there is an eye disorder that needs treatment.
You should also see an eye doctor if you notice a change in vision in one eye and not the other.
An ophthalmologist such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist will perform various tests to examine your vision loss. These could include:
- Full eye exam
- Examination of the retina: It is performed with drops that dilate or widen the pupil. This helps the doctor see the retina at the back of the eye.
- Visual field test: it assesses the vision you have in your eye and measures blind spots.
Other tests performed will be specific to the potential cause of the vision loss.
A word from Verywell
Although vision loss is worrisome, there are ways to prevent it. The best way to reduce your risk of vision loss is to schedule regular eye exams. Ask your eye doctor how often you should be seen. Another preventive measure is to tell an ophthalmologist if or when you notice any changes in your vision.
General recommendations for a healthy lifestyle such as eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding smoking, and exercising regularly are also helpful for the eyes as well as the rest of the body.
If you’ve had vision loss in the past, treatments are often available to help prevent further vision loss. Consult your eye doctor to find out which treatments are best for you.