What is Blindness?

Blindness occurs when you have visual impairment that prevents you from seeing light. It can also refer to less severe impairment where you can see light but blurry objects.

There are many different causes of blindness, and the condition may be permanent or temporary. Permanent blindness cannot be corrected with lenses or surgery. It may be caused by glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), corneal opacities, diabetic retinopathy, or other diseases.

Some people are born blind. Head injury, stroke, some types of cancers, vascular disease, vitamin A deficiency and exposure to some chemicals can also cause blindness, which may be temporary if medical assistance is available.

Cataracts, or a clouding of the eye’s lens, can also cause vision impairment. It’s one of the leading causes of blindness, but can be corrected through surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Blindness?

You may experience symptoms that can cause partial or total blindness if not treated. These include a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, an eye injury, pain, flashing lights or floaters in your vision and discomfort, especially if you wear contact lenses. These could indicate disease or infection that could be treated by your doctor to prevent additional vision loss.

Blindness Causes

Blindness can be caused by a number of different things, including diabetic retinopathy, chlorine poisoning, brain aneurysms, cornea infections, head injuries, cataracts, retinal vascular occlusion, optic neuritis, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Blindness can also be caused by Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome, strabismus (cross eyes), stroke, macular degeneration, herpes, glaucoma, intracranial hemorrhages, Tay-Sachs disease, Ito syndrome, and a foreign object in the eye.

Some less common causes include a vitamin A deficiency, ocular inflammatory disease, hereditary eye diseases, and congenital abnormalities.

The most common risk factor for blindness is living in an underdeveloped nation without access to modern medical care. However, poor nutrition, old age, and premature birth are also risk factors that could potentially lead to blindness. Some causes of blindness in underdeveloped countries include leprosy, trachoma and onchocerciasis (river blindness).

How is Blindness Treated?

Treatment for blindness depends primarily on what caused the vision issues. If another disease like diabetes has caused the vision impairment, proper management of that original disease is key to preventing further loss. Some medications may be available to reduce the impacts of glaucoma and other eye diseases.

Surgery is also a treatment option for some issues, including cataracts and eye injuries. In some cases, corneal transplants can help a person with complete vision loss due to disease or injury see again.

Blindness Prevention

Keeping your eyes protected and healthy can prevent blindness. You can do this by eating plenty of yellow and orange vegetables full of vitamin A, controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, and getting an annual eye exam to catch any potential problems before they get out of control.

Getting comprehensive eye exams starting at age 40 is recommended by the American Academy of Optometry because they can detect vision problems, like diabetic eye disease, early. Between the ages of 40 and 55, an eye exam is recommended every 2 to 4 years and between ages 55 and 64, it’s every 1 to 3 years. After age 65, an eye exam every year is recommended.

For children, it is recommended that they get eye exams as newborns, during well baby exams (from birth to three years old) and then continuously as they get older. If a child has any of the following, they should be taken to an eye care specialist: droopy eyelid, crossed or wandering eye, systemic diseases associated with eye disorders, and neurodevelopment disorders (like a hearing impairment). Any motor abnormalities (like autism or speech delay) could be cause for concern as well.