As my optometrist used to tell me, eyes are the windows to your health. Staying on top of your eye health may seem silly, but regular check-ups with an eye doctor aren’t only for people with glasses.
Not only can your eye doctor tell you if you have any eye diseases that cause blindness, but they can also look into other aspects of your health and can signal other problems
How to Look out for Eye Diseases That Cause Blindness
The only way to look out for eye diseases that could make you blind is by attending routine eye exams.
Any discomfort or vision problems, don’t wait for your routine exam. Go see an optometrist or your primary care provider immediately. It may be more than just stress or a simple headache.
If you experience any trauma to your head or face, go get checked out even if you feel fine. You could experience an injury to your eye, like retinal detachment, which could lead to a worsening condition.
What Is Blindness?
The term blindness covers a broad spectrum of visual loss but is generally considered to be vision that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
When completely blind, you cannot see light or color or shapes. There is just darkness. For someone who has had sight their whole life, this thought can be terrifying.
You can categorize the level of blindness or vision impairment by moderate, severe or profound. Moderate visual impairment is not considered blind. Severe impairment from 20/200 to 20/400 and profound impairment from 20/500 to 20/1000 is considered blind.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for those over the age of 60 years old, and the second leading cause for all ages. It is caused by progressive optic nerve damage usually from high pressure in the eye.
The optic nerve sends signals to your brain to see and damaging it causes vision loss or total blindness. The damage to the optic nerve is gradual but severe.
Because it is a progressive disease, it is usually age-related. There is congenital glaucoma that can affect infants at birth and beyond.
There is no cure for glaucoma, but if caught early there can be treatments to prolong illness progression.
To finish up, there are three main types of glaucoma.
The most common type of glaucoma; fluid builds inside the eye which increases pressure and causes gradual damage. There usually aren’t any obvious symptoms.
Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma
This is the less common type of glaucoma and presents itself with a more rapid disease progression. There is a rapid increase in pressure in the eye. The result is the same as for open-angle glaucoma—blindness.
This occurs when there is still damage to the optic nerve but the pressure seems otherwise normal.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It’s in the name—retinopathy means damage to the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the retina’s blood vessels.
Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects the way your body can process blood sugar. The longer you have uncontrolled blood sugar levels and don’t manage your disease, the higher your chances of developing diabetic retinopathy.
What may start as annoying vision issues eventually turns into complete blindness. You may see floaters or have some vision loss or blurriness. If the diabetic retinopathy progresses, the result is complete blindness.
Cataracts are one of the most common conditions that cause vision loss. If you have cataracts, you have a foggy lens. Where most people could see clearly, you have clouding.
It can feel like you’re in a cloud, too. Those who have cataracts say it feels like looking through fog. That is until it gets so bad that vision is completely gone.
Cataracts can be lifelong, or just temporary if you get cataract surgery, which is thought of as a safe and successful procedure.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The macula is a part of the retina that controls central vision. Those who have age-related macular degeneration usually have peripheral vision, but can’t see straight forward.
With age-related macular degeneration, objects stop appearing clear. Lines can seem wavy or shapes out of sorts.
You may also have a space of no vision and color distortion. Symptoms may be discreet in the beginning, but at first notice, you should contact your doctor immediately.
A healthier lifestyle may help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Vitamins have shown to make a difference in some cases. Medical professionals would also recommend ceasing smoking if the age-related macular degeneration patient smokes.
Dry vs. Wet Macular Degeneration
Dry, or atrophic, macular degeneration is the more common version and occurs from the gradual thinning of the macula tissue.
Wet, or exudative, macular degeneration occurs when fluids leak from new blood vessels behind the macula. It is the less common of the two types and progress can be slowed with injections.