What causes vision loss?
Your eyes are your windows to the world, and when they are up to task, you likely don’t give them a second thought.
Not everyone is that lucky.
Globally, as many as 2.2 billion people have some degree of vision impairment, with almost half of these cases being preventable, according to the World Health Organisation. Are you at risk? There are many types of vision loss, some of which are preventable and/or treatable when caught early. Here’s what you need to know.
Marked by a cloudy area in the lens of your eye, cataracts are a common cause of vision loss, says ophthalmologist Dr Julia Haller.
“Everyone eventually gets cataracts as they get older,” she says.
Cataract symptoms may include blurry vision, sensitivity to light, trouble seeing at night, and/or double vision. Over time and left untreated, cataracts can lead to vision loss. Your eye doctor can diagnose cataracts through a dilated eye exam.
The good news? Surgery, which involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, is safe.
Another type of vision loss, glaucoma, can cause loss of side or peripheral vision, blind spots, and/or blindness. Glaucoma is caused by an increase in pressure inside your eye. Left untreated, it is one of the leading causes of blindness.
There are many different types of glaucoma, but the most common type is called open-angle glaucoma.
“It’s hard to notice at first,” Dr Haller explains. “People usually don’t realise they have glaucoma until it destroys more and more tissue, and they feel like they are looking down a tunnel,” she says. “You can have good central vision until the end.” This is why glaucoma screening is an important part of any eye exam.
There are medications and procedures that can help stop the damage, but glaucoma treatment won’t help you regain what was already lost, she says.
“Getting diagnosed early is the best way to preserve your vision,” she adds. Knowing your risks, such as family history, also helps you stay one step ahead of glaucoma.
There’s no cure for glaucoma yet, but there are treatments that can help save your vision. Prescription eye drop medications that reduce eye pressure are usually the first line of treatment for glaucoma. Laser therapy is also an option.