Vision loss can highly interfere with an individual’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs)— these include things like reading, recognizing faces, and driving. Being unable to complete ADLs due to vision loss can have a major impact on how one operates and interacts with the world.
Fortunately, scientific research regarding eye health is advancing rapidly and constantly producing new treatments for vision loss. Now people with vision loss have more treatments than ever to choose from to manage (and improve!) their sight.
This article will address all things vision loss: signs and symptoms, conditions, diagnosis, causes, and treatment options.
What is Vision Loss?
Vision loss is understood as the sudden or gradual decline in the ability to see, and is also known as vision impairment. Most people in their life will experience some form of vision loss that can lead to minimal, partial, or complete loss of vision. This can be experienced through blurred vision, cloudy vision, blind spots, double vision, reduced night vision, or even loss of peripheral or central vision.
Prevalence of Vision Loss
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 2.2 billion people have a visual impairment, and 1 billion of those individuals have a visual impairment that could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed. Insufficient vision care or delay in seeking care are major contributors to the high incidence of vision loss. The global aging population is another contributor. In the United States, the National Institute of Health projects the number of people with visual impairment or blindness will double by 2050. While the incidence of vision loss increases with age affecting 12.2% of Americans aged 65-74 and 15.2% of Americans aged 75 or older, it can also affect the young. Nearly 3% of Americans under the age of 18 are visually impaired or blind.
Signs and Symptoms
The first signs and symptoms of vision loss usually involve subtle changes to the visual field, such as blurry vision. These symptoms may indicate underlying eye conditions or eye diseases. If you notice your vision becomes blurry or fuzzy, or you are squinting more than usual while performing ADLs like reading, watching TV, recognizing people’s faces, or navigating stairs, you should consult your eye doctor.
Loss of Vision
There are numerous ways that vision loss or impairment can present. Read on to discover the most common types of vision loss and their signs and symptoms.
Central Vision Loss
Central vision loss denotes a loss of detailed vision when looking straight ahead. Many people with central vision loss feel as though they are missing details of their environment, seeing blurry spots in the center of their visual field, or having difficulty discerning distances.
Those blurry spots can turn dark or black as the eye damage progresses; this is often due to the macula beginning to deteriorate, which can be caused by diseases like Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy.
Blurred vision describes the sharpness of one’s eyesight. When vision becomes blurry, people usually begin to squint and rub their eyes more frequently, or move closer to objects to view them better.
Blurred vision is common and can be caused by refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
Sudden Vision Loss
Sudden vision loss can occur within just a few seconds to over a period of a few days. Vision loss may be blurry, cloudy, or complete and may occur in either or both eyes. Some people with sudden vision loss may also notice a headache, eye redness, or eye pain.
The most common causes of sudden vision loss is interrupted blood flow to the eye, eye trauma, optic nerve damage, or retinal detachment.
Peripheral Vision Loss (Tunnel Vision)
Peripheral vision loss is sometimes referred to as tunnel vision because it affects the wide-angle field of view. Often, people with peripheral vision loss experience no change to their central vision. This type of vision loss can present suddenly or gradually, and result in difficulty driving at night, sensing objects in their environment, or navigating busy environments.
Peripheral vision loss is often associated with Glaucoma, Scotoma, Retinitis Pigmentosa, or even a stroke.
Double vision, also known as Diplopia, describes the appearance of multiple images of a singular object in your vision. Many people with this condition experience disturbances to balance and mobility.
In most cases, damage to the nerve or muscles that control eye movement is responsible for double vision. However, other disorders can also cause double vision, including thyroid dysfunction, stroke, aneurysm, and diabetes.
There are multiple causes of vision loss and ranging levels of severity. Often, vision loss presents alongside additional symptoms. It’s important to attend regular eye exams that can detect progressive eye conditions that may have very few symptoms in its early stages. If you experience any of these, seek medical advice right away:
- Blurred vision not helped with regular methods like glasses and contact lenses
- Flashing lights, floaters or a gray shadow
- Sudden loss of vision in one eye
- Eye pain
- Eye injury: particularly if there is redness or pain that lasts more than 15 to 20 mins