Sight is our most important sense so it follows that we greatly fear losing it. Thankfully, vision deterioration or blindness are not inevitable outcomes of life or aging. Taking care of your eyes will help ensure you can keep seeing life to the fullest for the rest of yours.
The Biggest Fear?
A poll from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology found Americans believe losing their vision would create the largest impact on their lives. It ranked even higher than the loss of other important functions, like memory or speaking. Becoming blind was in the top four “worst things that could happen to you,” right alongside diseases with huge life-altering effects, like Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
But losing your sight is preventable so this is a fear you may never have to face.
Glaucoma is one of the major causes of blindness. It affects vision through high fluid pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve, which is what connects your retina to your brain. Your eye contains fluids which flow to nearby tissues. If this fluid leaves the eye too slowly and begins building up, it stresses the optic nerve and causes vision loss. High blood pressure is another risk factor for this condition.
People with glaucoma develop tunnel vision. Their sight darkens, first peripherally, before gradually moving inward, eventually causing blindness.
Because there is no cure for glaucoma, treatment relies heavily on early detection. Regular vision tests check for loss of peripheral vision and dilated eye exams allow your doctor to examine the state of your retina and optic nerve. Medication for glaucoma focuses on lowering eye pressure to protect the optic nerve from further damage and to preserve the remaining sight.
Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness worldwide. These occur when the proteins which are naturally part of the lens of the eye begin to cluster together. It typically begins in one small area and spreads outward as more proteins become part of the original clump.
A person with cataracts will have blurry vision and colors will appear less vivid.
The formation of cataracts isn’t only related to aging. Some health conditions like obesity and diabetes may raise one’s risk of developing cataracts. Certain types of medications, statins and corticosteroids, are linked to cataracts. UV ray exposure from sunlight is another risk factor.
A damaging side effect of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. It can cause blindness if untreated.
Diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar flowing in the bloodstream. Sugar molecules are sharp and damage the blood vessels as they travel along them. If the tiny vessels which nourish your eyes are injured, blood and fluids leak, causing blurry vision. If left to progress, the body will generate new blood vessels on the retina which actually creates scar tissue. These new vessels are very delicate and prone to bleeding. Eventually, this condition can lead to retinal detachment and complete vision loss.
Early detection is key to preventing vision loss. Vision damage from diabetic retinopathy sometimes begins without symptoms. Managing the condition and keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range greatly reduces the chance of developing this medical condition.
Keeping your body healthy and tracking any vision changes through regular vision testing are both important in making sure your biggest fear of becoming blind never has to become reality.
by Joyce Handzo