Guest Author - Dean Ingalls
The top causes of blindness or low-vision for women include:
1. Age-Related Macular Degeneration– AMD tops the list for the cause of vision loss in the USA. AMD causes damage to the retina and macula parts of the eye in two forms, dry and wet degeneration. The dry form affects more people and the one commonly diagnosed. The disease over time destroys the tightly packed cells in front of and behind the macula responsible for central vision. The cause of dry AMD is unknown.
Wet AMD causes central vision loss much faster and is the form responsible for ninety percent of vision loss of those affected. As AMD progresses new blood vessels grow around the macula. The new vessels become thin and weak and start leaking fluid. The fluid blocks central vision.
Who is at risk?
-Individuals over sixty years of age
-Anyone with a family history of AMD
Prevention – do not smoke, eat a balanced diet (specifically dark green leafy vegetables and fruits), and wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses for protection when in sunlight.
2. Autoimmune Disease – diseases that cause the body’s immune system to attack certain body parts also known as rheumatoid diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjögren’s Syndrome, Systemic Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis all affect vision. Sjögren’s syndrome causes severe dry eye that can lead to vision issues because the disease destroys the gland responsible for moisture of the surface of the eye.
3. Cataracts –A cataract forms because of changes in the proteins forming the lens causing cloudiness on top or beneath the lens. Cataracts develop very slowly and commonly appear in people 60 years of age or older. Treatment is normally surgery.
4. Diabetic Retinopathy – Diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly store or use sugar causing a host of health issues. One of the vision issues developed is diabetic retinopathy a disease that damages the blood vessels supplying oxygen and nutrients to the eyes in and around the retinal nerve. The body attempts to correct the blood flow problem by growing new Blood vessels that begin to leak damaging the retina or flowing in the vitreous or jelly/middle part of the eye blocking vision. Diabetic Retinopathy tops the causes of blindness in the Hispanic and working aged individuals in the USA.
Who is at risk?
-Anyone diagnosed with Diabetes
-Family history of Diabetes
-Anyone dealing with a severe weight problem
5. Dry Eye – occurs when the glands responsible for the moisture level of the eyes function improperly. Dry Eye occurs due to a host of problems, but two main causes are aging and a lack of hormonal balance. Women develop dry eye more than men because of the lack of the male hormones (androgens). Research shows Androgen (hormone found in both sexes) diminishes faster as women age. Hormone therapy does not help with dry Eye Syndrome.
-Artificial tear drops (with or without preservatives)
-Avoid hair dryers, hot dry rooms, smoke and wind
-Consume tuna or salmon for fish oil (Omega3)
-Redirect the flow of tear duct through surgery
6. Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy – is a disease that kills the endothelial cells on the backside of the cornea. The cells control the level of moisture on the cornea. As the cells die off moisture collects on the cornea causing a thickening of the cornea, cloudiness and swelling resulting in low vision. Treatment is a Cornea transplant
7. Glaucoma – is a disease that damages the fibers of the Optic Nerve blocking transmission to the brain. The nerve damage is caused by failure of the drainage system of the eye. The buildup of fluid increases eye pressure damaging the Optic Nerve. Early detection of Glaucoma offers an opportunity to control the pressure problem. The disease appears in people forty years of age or older. Glaucoma ranks first in list of vision issues among blacks and second overall.
Glaucoma is a silent disease. Normally, no symptoms appear until disease is in the late stages. A Glaucoma test is the only method of early detection and diagnoses of the disease.
Who is at risk?
-Anyone with a family history of Glaucoma
-African Americans/Blacks – number one cause of vision loss.
-People who are nearsighted
-Anyone taking a lengthy regiment of steroids
-Have your eyes tested regularly
-Medications for regulating fluids and eye pressure in pill and eye drop forms
8. Uncorrected Refractive Error – is an optical problem preventing light from focusing directly on the retina of the eye. Glasses or contact lenses normally correct the refractive error. Examples: Myopia (nearsightedness), Hyperopia (farsightedness), Astigmatism (uneven inability of eye to focus) and Presbyopia (eyes inability to focus up close occurs around age forty). The cause of refractive error is unknown.
Do not take your vision for granted, have regular eye exams (yearly or at least every other year), especially after age fifty.