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Vision Loss

Sep 27, 2019

Vision loss is a difficult condition – it changes the tools you need to engage in the world. Learning to function in the world without sight takes time, effort and commitment, but just like other challenges, it can be done successfully and with grace.

There is the emotional aspect of vision loss. Going from being a sighted person to low vision or blindness, whether it is a slow process or happens quickly, can cause the feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and helplessness. These are all natural reactions that can occur with any major life event. Seeking support from a professional can help dilute these emotions. A therapist or counselor can help you discover your inner resources and strength to more easily live with these emotions as you discover the path to a freedom from them.

As you delve into mitigating difficult emotions, it is helpful to learn more about your vision loss. The National Eye Institute released a study in 2004 naming the four most common age-related eye diseases, glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic retinopathy. Having more than one of these conditions is not uncommon.

Glaucoma is a condition where a buildup of pressure in the eye causes damage to the optic nerve which is the vital link of the eye to the brain and processes visual information. A cataract is a change in the lens of the eye. This causes your vision to be cloudy because light is prevented from entering the eye properly. 

Glaucoma and cataracts are leading causes of blindness and low vision. With Glaucoma, early detection and treatment can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss, although around 10 percent will lose vision regardless of treatment.  With cataracts, surgery is very successful in restoring vision – nine out of 10 people will regain very good vision. Cataract surgery, however, should only be considered when you are unable to do all the things you want while wearing your glasses.

AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people age 50 and older. It is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, which is the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see. There are three stages of AMD, early – most do not experience vision loss at this stage, Intermediate – there may be some vision loss, but there still may not be noticeable symptoms and late – vision loss is noticeable. With AMD, you have time to plan for impending blindness.

If you have diabetes – either type 1 or 2 – you could get diabetic retinopathy. It’s caused by damage to the retina, which are the blood vessels at the back of the eye. At first, you may not know you have it or you might notice minor vision problems. Eventually, however, it can cause blindness. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye condition.

Having an annual eye exam is important, especially as we age, and particularly so if you have diabetes.

Many helpful products exist that can help with daily living if you start to lose your sight. A great online catalog that will introduce you a myriad of basic products and new technologies is www.maxiaids.com.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed as legally blind, an invaluable resource is the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. They can be reached at 617-727-5550 or online at www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-commission-for-the-blind.