According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 2.2 billion individuals worldwide with vision impairment or blindness. In the U.S. alone, blindness or low vision affects more than 4.2 million Americans.
What is also concerning is that an estimated 93 million adults in the United States are at high risk for severe vision loss, yet only half visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months. Sadly, many people lack access to routine eye care services to detect conditions that can lead to preventative care or treatment.
Visual impairment is a major global health issue. Over 80% of visual impairment is preventable through access to basic health resources such as proper vision care, glasses, and education. These troubling figures really highlight the importance of spreading awareness about regular vision screenings and blindness prevention.
What is blindness?
Blindness is a lack of vision or the inability to see light. Legal blindness is considered vision that is worse than 20/200 with the use of glasses or contact lenses. The term blindness may also be used to describe a severe vision impairment that reduces an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks without assistance.
Vision impairment or partial blindness can range from mild to severe and are considered having limited vision even with the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery. Visual impairment can affect an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks and can significantly impact their quality of life.
What are the symptoms of blindness?
Blindness can occur suddenly or over time. Often there is no pain associated with blindness. Symptoms of low vision may range from trouble focusing, glare, or difficulty perceiving light. Individuals may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Cloudy vision
- Inability to see shapes
- Seeing only shadows
- Poor night vision
- Tunnel vision
What are the most common causes of visual impairment and blindness?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are primarily eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Cataracts is the leading cause of preventable blindness.
What are the risk factors for blindness?
Worldwide, one of the leading risk factors for blindness is the lack of access to health care resources to correct refractive errors and cataracts. An aging population and rising obesity have also led to increases in diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, contributing to the growth in numbers of individuals with eye diseases that can lead to blindness.
A family history of eye disease is also a risk factor, as well as ethnicity, gender, and lifestyle choices such as smoking and the consumption of alcohol.
How is blindness treated?
Treatment is dependent on the cause. Some conditions are curable and in other cases, vision may be restored through the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, surgery or medication.
Can blindness be prevented?
The good news is that roughly 80% of visual impairment is preventable. Regular eye exams can help detect eye disease and prevent vision loss. Healthy habits such as avoiding smoking, maintaining proper nutrition and weight and exercise play a significant role in preventing blindness or vision impairment caused by disease.
Equally important is the use of appropriate eye protection to prevent injuries from sports activities, chemicals or other accidents.
Help prevent blindness and visual impairment by scheduling your regular eye care screening and encouraging loved ones to visit their eye care professional.