Vision Loss
Causes and Support

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Vision loss is not the same as blindness. According to Dr. Melissa Downs of Rochester Family Eye Clinic, there are “several levels of vision loss, from mild blur, where one can still drive legally, however, is not corrected to perfect 20/20 vision, to legal blindness, where the “smallest” letter (the person can) read on the vision chart is the big 20/400 letter E.”

There are many reasons for vision loss beyond the most common, refractive error. It’s important to have regular eye exams, every one or two years, so that vision loss can be detected in its earliest stages. This article looks at the most common forms of vision loss.

Vision loss in children

Dr. Kristina Voyna, an optometrist at Zumbrota Eye Care, says that children should have annual eye exams beginning with their first eye exam just before starting school. There are two things she is primarily looking for in the exam. The first is refractive error, which is a problem with focusing light accurately on the retina due to the shape of the eye. The most common types of refractive error are nearsightedness and farsightedness.

The second is amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” which is the most common cause of decreased vision in a single eye among children and young adults. Early detection improves treatment success. For many children, glasses may be all the treatment needed. If not, treatments encouraging the use of the weaker eye by patching the stronger eye are used.

Age-related vision loss

At around age 40, some people may begin to notice they have difficulty reading or seeing things at close range. The condition, known as presbyopia, is the gradual loss of the eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. Prescription reading glasses can correct the condition. Or, if you already wear glasses, your optometrist can order a new pair of glasses with the addition of bifocals to the bottom portion of the lens.

At around age 40, some people may begin to notice they have difficulty reading or seeing things at close range. The condition, known as presbyopia, is the gradual loss of the eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. Prescription reading glasses can correct the condition. Or, if you already wear glasses, your optometrist can order a new pair of glasses with the addition of bifocals to the bottom portion of the lens.

loss, is an increase in eye pressure and degeneration of the optic disc. Treatment may include eye drops, laser therapy, stents or surgery. If untreated, the condition can result in blindness.

Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of blindness in those 60 years and older. It causes a loss of central vision. Risk factors include age, a family history of macular degeneration, heart disease, exposure to UV light and smoking.

Women-specific vision impairment

Dr. Downs notes that there are two eye conditions that can cause vision impairment, which tend to affect women more than men. They are dry eye syndrome and dermatochalasis, or “baggy eyes.” Dry eye syndrome, which can cause pain and blurred vision, is common during winter. Women are more susceptible due to hormone changes. Artificial tears, warm moist compresses and omega-3 supplements can help. Dermatochalasis is corrected with an outpatient surgical procedure called blepharoplasty. Correcting the droopy upper eyelid can improve vision because it physically opens the eye up wider.

Vision supports

Reading glasses and simple handheld magnifiers to assist with vision loss are available at your local pharmacy or drugstore. The Vision Council’s online resource, WhatIsLowVision.org, is a storehouse of information for people with macular degeneration, glaucoma and other eye conditions. They offer a wider range of magnification devices.

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