Tips for Reducing Vision Loss & Common Causes of Blindness
Sight is extremely precious, yet vision problems are extremely common. Without prompt detection and treatment, many eye diseases can lead to vision loss and even total blindness, which unsurprisingly, can be devastating.
Studies estimate that more than 4.2 million U.S. adults aged 40 years and older are categorized as having low vision or are legally blind. Low vision means that the patient still has difficulty seeing clearly even when wearing corrective lenses and may have difficulty performing normal day to day tasks such as reading, driving, or moving around safely.
Despite this statistic, it is estimated that around 50% of sight loss is actually avoidable. Here’s what you need to know about the most common causes of blindness and what you can do to reduce the likelihood that you will experience vision loss.
Common Causes of Blindness
According to the National Eye Institute, there are four leading causes of blindness in the United States.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Better known as AMD, this condition is one of the most common causes of vision loss in people aged 60 and above. Within the retina, there is a central area of cells that is known as the macula. The macula is responsible for creating the sharp central vision that we need to perform activities such as driving, reading, and watching television. It also helps us to detect specific details in people’s faces, so that we can recognize them and tell them apart. In AMD, age caused the cells of the macula to start to degenerate, causing our central vision to deteriorate. There is no way of reversing any vision lost as a result of AMD.
Most people have heard of cataracts and associate them with the oldest generation. While age is the most common reason, younger people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc., or trauma can also develop cataracts. Some people are even born with cataracts that develop during gestation. Cataracts occur when age-related changes to the proteins within the natural lens of the eye clumps, causing cloudy patches that sufferers describe as like looking through frosted glass. By age 80, more than 50% of all U.S. adults have had at least one cataract. They can affect one eye or both, and don’t necessarily appear at the same rate. Fortunately, cataracts can be treated.
Many people are unaware that diabetes has the potential to affect their eyes and vision. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and affects an estimated 4 million American adults who are aged 40 and over. It occurs when persistently high blood sugar levels cause changes to the blood vessels that serve the eyes. The blood vessels can leak fluid onto the eye, causing scarring of the retina that triggers irreversible vision loss.
Glaucoma is a condition that is characterized by an accumulation of pressure inside the eyes. This pressure causes damage to the optic nerve and as this nerve deteriorates, blind spots develop in your visual field which gets progressively worse. Any vision lost as a result of glaucoma is permanent. Studies estimate that 2 million U.S. adults suffer from glaucoma, but only 50% of those know that they have it.
Tips to Reduce Vision Loss
Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help prevent vision loss in the future. Here are our top tips:
Eat for your eye health. What we eat has a direct impact on our health and wellbeing. A healthy, balanced diet that is rich in nutrients will help to keep your eyes functioning properly. Green leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruits and veggies can help to prevent eye disease. Meanwhile fish contains omega-3s which are also good for tear film production and overall eye health.
Don’t smoke. Smoking is particularly bad news for eye health. This is because cyanide from the smoke gets into your bloodstream and can damage the cells within your body including those found in your eyes. Studies show that it puts you at higher risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Wear sunglasses. Most people know that UV light from the sun is harmful to our eyes. Not only can it lead to skin cancer developing around the eyes, but the sun can also cause changes within the cells of the eyes themselves, increasing your risk of diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Experts recommend that we choose to wear sunglasses that are proven to block out 99-100% of the sun’s rays.
Visit your eye doctor regularly. Getting regular comprehensive eye exams is one of the best ways of preventing vision loss. Eye exams give your eye doctor an opportunity to assess your eyes for any problems or abnormalities, ensuring that they are picked up early before they cause you any unpleasant symptoms or affect the quality of your vision. Most adults are recommended to attend eye exams every two years unless their eye doctor states otherwise.
For more tips to preserve your vision, or if you have any concerns and would like to schedule an eye exam, please contact our Sunnyside, New York office.