Over one million
Americans aged 40 and over are currently blind and an additional 2.4
million are visually impaired.
The leading causes of vision impairment (low vision) and blindness in the U.S. are diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and glaucoma.
-- DIABETIC RETINOPATHY is a common complication of diabetes. Retinal blood vessels can break down, leak, or become blocked, affecting and impairing vision over time. Nearly half of all people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime, and risk increases with age and duration of diabetes. People with diabetes are encouraged to seek annual dilated eye exams. Currently, laser surgery and a procedure called a vitrectomy are highly effective in treating diabetic retinopathy. Research into pharmaceutical treatment options is continuing.
-- AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION is a condition that primarily affects the part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. There are two forms of AMD -- dry AMD and wet AMD. Because AMD often damages central vision, it is the most common cause of legal blindness and vision impairment in older Americans (AMD rarely affects those under the age of 60). While there is no generally accepted treatment for dry AMD, laser therapies to destroy leaking blood vessels can help reduce the risk of advancing vision loss in many cases of wet AMD. Research sponsored by the National Eye Institute has recently shown that a combination of zinc, vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene may also reduce the risk of advanced AMD by 25 percent.
-- CATARACT is a clouding of the eye's naturally clear lens. Most cataracts appear with advancing age. Scientists are unsure what causes cataract. The most important factor is increasing age, but there are additional factors, including smoking, diabetes, and excessive exposure to sunlight. Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world, and affects nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older. By age 80, more than half of all Americans develop cataract. Cataract is sometimes considered a conquered disease because surgical treatment that can eliminate vision loss due to the disease is widely available. However, cataract still accounts for a significant amount of vision impairment in the U.S., particularly among people age 65 and over who may have difficulty accessing appropriate eye care.
-- GLAUCOMA is a disease that causes gradual damage to the optic nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. The loss of vision is not experienced until a significant amount of nerve damage has occurred. For this reason, as many as half of all people with glaucoma are unaware of their disease. About 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have been diagnosed with glaucoma, and another two million do not know they have it. Most cases of glaucoma can be controlled and vision loss slowed or halted by timely diagnosis and treatment. However, any vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored.
Those affected by low vision often become depressed, are prone to falls and resultant injuries, and many are socially isolated. There are several things that can be done to assist those with low vision.
If you or someone close to you has low vision due to glaucoma or another eye disease, here are some simple tips to help continue living an active daily life.
Some eye disorders can be fixed by wearing appropriate contacts. However , you should always consult your eye doctor before starting this kind of treatment.
Improve Lighting - Add additional light for specific tasks. Use directed lighting from behind the shoulder to reduce glare. Be sure that bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, closets, and stairways are well lit.
Increase Contrast - Pour your coffee into a white cup, and your cereal into a dark bowl. Set white plates on dark place mats. Use a black cutting board for white onions and a white cutting board for dark-colored foods. Use felt tip pens instead of ball point pens.
Control Glare - Wear amber or dark yellow glasses or clip-ons to reduce glare, and wear a cap with a brim or a visor outside. Cover shiny surfaces with a cloth.
Get Organized - Always keep your money, keys, and medications in the same place to make them easier to find. Have a designated place for everything in your home, and request that others in the household respect and maintain the organizational system.
Enlarge Text - Request large-size checks from your bank. Use large print crossword puzzles and playing cards. Photocopy and enlarge favorite recipes, addresses, and take-out menus. Use the accessibility features on Macintosh and Windows computers.
Mark and Label - Mark key positions on your stove, microwave oven, washing machine, and thermostat with dimensional fabric paint or nail polish so you can feel the correct positions. Label spices and medications with a dark marking pen. Carry your address labels with you to use when filling out forms.
Listen to Books - Listen to audio tapes and books on CD borrowed from your local library, or from the free Talking Books program sponsored by the National Library Service.
You may also consider visiting a low vision specialist who can help you to get organized and assist you in maintaining your independence. For more information, see the Glaucoma Research Foundation
(1) Created by and for more information contact:
Glaucoma Research Foundation
251 Post Street, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94108
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Adjustable Text Size
You can increase the text size of your favorite book or periodical with the push of a button. Every book in your library can be large print.
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(2) American Academy of Ophthalmology, 7/2008 http://www.aao.org/aao/
BrightFocus Foundation funds research seeking cures for Alzheimers disease, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, and provides the public with information about risk factors, preventative lifestyles, available treatments and coping strategies.