VISUAL IMPAIRMENT AND ITS CAUSES

There are many different causes of blindness and visual impairment, including aging, disease, congenital problems and accidents. In the United States, the major causes of blindness and severe visual impairment are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, and to some degree, cataracts.


MACULAR DEGENERATION

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that affects the retina, a thin layer of tissue that covers the back inside wall of the eye. The central portion of the retina is called the macula, and it is responsible for central vision which is used to see details. Thus, this eye condition affects a person's ability to read, identify faces, etc. Macular degeneration does not result in total blindness. New treatments may slow the progression of macular degeneration, but cannot reverse the condition.

A photo of a man holding his toddler-aged daughter, as seen with normal vision.        A photo of a man holding his toddler-aged daughter, but their faces are obscured by a large black, irregularly-shaped spot.
Normal vision                                    Macular degeneration

For more information on macular degeneration, click here.


GLAUCOMA

Glaucoma is an eye condition that can cause blindness without any symptoms or pain. Glaucoma causes progressive damage to the optic nerve, often due to high pressure inside the eye. This damage causes loss of side vision and can eventually result in blindness. Only an eye examination can tell whether glaucoma is present, and if diagnosed in its early stages, treatment with drops and other medications can be most effective.

A photo of a man holding his toddler-aged daughter, as seen with normal vision.        A photo of a man holding his toddler-aged daughter, buy everything in the photo is black except one small area in the middle, in which can be seen a little bit of their faces.
Normal vision                                    Glaucoma

For more information on glaucoma, click here.


DIABETIC RETINOPATHY

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease of the eye caused when the small blood vessels in the retina begin to weaken or get blocked. The disease's effect on vision can range from a distortion similar to looking through water, to dark spots throughout the visual field. Eventually the retina can become detached resulting in severe vision loss or blindness. For people with diabetes, the risk for this disease can be lowered by controlling blood sugar levels and diet.

A photo of a man holding his toddler-aged daughter, as seen with normal vision.        A photo of a man holding his toddler-aged daughter, but seen through many black splotches that appear over the entire photo.
Normal vision                                    Diabetic retinopathy

For more information on diabetic retinopathy, click here.


RETINITIS PIGMENTOSA

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is the name given to a group of eye diseases that are genetic. RP affects the part of the eye that is sensitive to light. RP develops slowly and severe vision loss may take many years. An early symptom is night blindness. The next symptom is a loss of side vision, which worsens over time until all side vision is lost. RP can lead to total blindness. There is no cure at this time.

For more information on retinitis pigmentosa, click here.


CATARACTS

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye, usually associated with aging. Surgery to remove the damaged lens is a highly effective method of restoring sight to a person with cataracts. Some individuals experience visual impairment when treatment is complicated by other health conditions.

For more information on cataracts, click here.


MORE INFORMATION