Blindness

Blindness braille

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of blindness

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that around 39 million people all over the world are blind and 246 have poor vision. The statistics of WHO have also shown that India has the highest blind population in the world. A recent report published in the Times of India has shown that India loses around 37 billion dollars due to eye-sight problems. So evidently, the burden of eye-sight problems in India as well as in the world is very high and needs to be resolved on an emergency basis.

 

What is blindness?

Blindness is defined as the partial or complete loss of vision. This is precipitated by different physical and environmental factors. Existing diseases of the eye may worsen and lead to blindness in many cases. This article will discuss some of the conditions that can give rise to blindness.

 

Cataract

Blindness affectedCataract is defined as a type of vision impairment characterized by unusual blurring the eye lens causing gradual opacity of lenses and loss of clear vision.

The general causes of cataracts are as follows-

  • Prolonged and unprotected exposure to Ultraviolet radiation
  • Trauma due to past incidents of eye-infection or eye injury
  • Certain drugs such as corticosteroids and diuretics
  • After-effects of previous diseases like diabetes, eczema (skin disorder), uveitis (eye inflammation), high blood pressure, glaucoma (disease of the eye)
  • Continuous exposure to toxic chemicals present in the environment
  • Addictive habits like smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged use of vitamin supplements (hypervitaminosis symptoms)
  • Diet rich in fat and deficient in anti-oxidant vitamins

What are the main signs and symptoms of cataracts?

The warning signs of cataracts are as follows-

  • Impaired vision accompanied by cloudiness or fogginess
  • A gradual opacity of the pupil causing loss of clear vision
  • Hypersensitivity to bright light (increased glare)
  • Short-sightedness (Myopia) characterized by difficulties in distance-vision
  • Double vision conditions where multiple images are perceived in one eye (diplopia)
  • Difficulty recognizing color (can lead to color-blindness)
  • Poor vision in bright sunlight
  • Poor night vision, occasionally leading to permanent night-blindness
  • Frequent change in prescriptions related to eye-glasses
  • Trouble performing mundane activities like reading, recognizing people or objects, driving, watching television and walking

What are the different types of cataracts?

According to morphology, cataracts are of three types-

  • Nuclear Sclerotic Cataracts
  • Cortical cataracts
  • Posterior sub-capsular cataracts

According to aetiology, cataracts are of four types-

  • Degenerative cataract
  • Congenital cataract
  • Traumatic cataract
  • Secondary cataracts

 

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration (MD) is the slow and painless breakdown of the eye’s macula. The macula is the central part of the retina and is predominantly made of cone cells which are the visual cells. Degeneration of the macula occurs due to loss of visual cells, cone cells, and rods cells, and thus, causes blurry vision or eventual blindness. In some rare cases, blindness can be abrupt. Since the macula degenerates overage, the disease is termed as Age-Related Macular Degeneration. If the disease is found to have a genetic linkage, it is known as juvenile macular degeneration or congenital macular degeneration. In the latter case, macular degeneration is an autosomal recessive eye disease.

What causes Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is precipitated by a number of catalyzing factors. These are listed below-

  • Age: The risk of being affected by AMD increases with age.
  • Smoking: Smokers have to endure severe vision loss when compared to non-smokers.
  • Heredity: People with close relatives affected by AMD are likely to develop AMD with age.
  • Sunlight: Laboratory studies show that exposure to sunlight can affect the retinas.
  • Diet: Obesity, intake of artificial fats and high cholesterol can increase the risk of being diagnosed with AMD.
  • Race: AMD is largely observed in whites but it can affect other races as well.
  • Drugs: Certain drugs namely, Aralen and phenothiazine can cause macular degeneration.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to be affected by AMD.

Other general factors include-

  • Inheritance of a faulty gene (usually dominant) from one parent
  • Inheritance of a defective gene (usually recessive) from both parents
  • Death of macular cells
  • Abnormal growth and rupture of blood vessels within the macula

What are the signs and symptoms?

Blindness brailleThe common symptoms of macular degeneration are as follows-

  • Partial or complete loss of central vision
  • Gradual loss of color vision
  • Photosensitivity (aversion to extremely bright light)
  • Loss of night vision
  • Difficulty reading the blackboard in school
  • Defective perception of straight lines as curved or bent
  • The appearance of dark spots in the central field of vision
  • Problems in distinguishing minute details
  • Difficulty performing tasks such as threading a needle, reading very small prints or reading street signs

What are the types of macular degeneration?

There are two main types-

  • Dry MD: This is caused by thinning of the RPE, Retinal Pigment Epithelial cells.
  • Wet MD: This is caused by thickening of the membrane underlying the retina which eventually breaks.

 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a type of eye disease that occurs due to damage and death of the optic nerve. In a majority of the cases, glaucoma results from an abnormal elevation in the intraocular pressure. Faulty drainage within the eye chambers also contributes to glaucoma in many patients. Serious cases of glaucoma lead to vision disturbance and blindness.

Causes of glaucoma

These are-

  • Blockage of the drainage channels of the eye, which obstructs the drainage of the intraocular fluid
  • Increase in intraocular pressure due to build up of fluids inside the eye
  • Damage of the sensory optic nerve due to high pressure
  • Gradual hollowing of the optic disc that forces the sensitive optic nerve fibres into a curved shape

What are the types of glaucoma?

Two primary types of glaucoma have been identified so far. These are-

  • Open angle glaucoma: It occurs due to progressive clogging of the drainage paths in the eye chamber, which leads to an increased intraocular pressure.
  • Closed angle glaucoma: Here, the gap between the cornea and the iris is shortened, which causes an obstruction in fluid flow.

Warning signs

These are given below-

  • Partial or complete loss of peripheral vision
  • Loss of central vision (in the late stage)
  • Appearance of multicoloured (typically rainbow coloured) circles around bright lights
  • Pain in the head and eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness

 

Diagnosis and treatment for blindness

The following diagnostic tests may be beneficial-

  • Visual acuity test
  • Visual field test
  • Dilated eye exam
  • Tonometry
  • Pachymetry

Blindness in most cases is irreversible. In some cases however, surgical treatments may help restore vision.

Treatment & Prevention

Treatment of visual impairment and blindness often includes:

  • If the blindness is due to nutritional deficiency, it can be addressed by bringing the required dietary changes.
  • Cataract-induced blindness can be treated by cataract surgery. This restores visions in a majority of cases.
  • If the cause of the blindness is an inflammation and/or infection, medications can help in reducing and controlling the symptoms. These could be taken orally or in the form of drops.
  • If a scar in the cornea has caused blindness, cornea transplant surgery might help.
  • However, there are certain cases such as stroke-induced optic nerve damage or chronic retinal detachment, where the vision loss is irreversible.

Prevention of blindness can be done by:

  • Ensure that your diet doesn’t lack in basic nutrients such as vitamin A which are vital for developing normal eyesight.
  • Early detection and treatment of glaucoma can also help prevent partial or complete vision loss.
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of vision loss (diabetic retinopathy). This can be checked by getting proper treatment for diabetes, having a regular exercise routine, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Go for regular eye check-ups. This is more important for the aging population.
  • If your lifestyle and/or your occupation expose you to toxic fumes, high-temperature flames, eye irritants etc make sure that you protect your eyes from these.
  • Be careful about eye injuries. In case of any accidental or unintentional eye injury happens, don’t treat it lightly. Seek immediate medical attention.

Facts

  • According to the WHO, there are almost 285 million people across the globe that have visual impairments and out of these 39 million are blind (2010 report).
  • 90% of the individuals affected by visual impairment belong to low and middle income countries.

Facts

  • Roughly 8 out of every 10 blind people are above the age of 50 years.
  • Studies indicate that 80% of all visual impairments and cases of blindness are either preventable or treatable.

Facts

  • Among children, the major causes of blindness are premature retinopathy, cataract, and vitamin A deficiency. 50% of these are avoidable or treatable.
  • Blind people can dream too. However, their dreams are more about sounds, smells, and tastes. Studies also indicate that they are more prone to nightmares than people with vision.

Related Conditions

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • When approaching a blind individual, always identify yourself by speaking out your name.
  • Help them by giving accurate directions. Instead of saying “You are near the door”, say “The door is few inches to your left.
  • Always ask the blind individual if he/she requires any help or assistance. Help them according to their instructions.
Don'ts
  • Speak to the blind person through a 3rd You can speak to them directly unless they have a hearing defect too.
  • Shout or talk in a loud voice when having a conversation with a blind person.
  • Distract the guide dog (if the blind individual is taking the help of one). Also, refrain from handling the dog’s harness.

 

 

 

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Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
dandelion weight loss
Caralluma Fimbriata: How to eat this cactus to lose weight Caralluma fimbriata is a miracle cactus that can be safely consumed by most for losing weight and boosting…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
Chest X-Ray A chest x-ray is a diagnostic test that uses x-rays to visualize the structures inside your chest. It…
ANTIPHOSPHOLIPIDANTIBODY(APL)_IgG
Antiphospholipid (APL) antibody-IgG The Antiphospholipid Antibody testing is a blood test used to determine an autoimmune disorder called Antiphospholipid syndrome linked…
antihepatitis core antigent
Anti-Hepatitis B Core Antigen (AHBc) Total Anti-hepatitis B core antigen (AHBC ) is a blood examination and the only serological marker of infectious blood…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
iron deficiency profile
Iron Deficiency Profile An iron deficiency profile is a battery of blood tests which are performed in order to determine the…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
Optavia diet
The features of an Optavia diet The Optavia diet endorses pre-packaged meals and snacks called "fuelings" that are tasty, low in calorie, and incorporates…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
Kava: Is it the healthy substitute for alcohol you have been waiting for? Native to the beautiful South Pacific islands, Kava is a famous beverage rooted in the local culture. It…
What to eat, what not to eat in the South Beach Diet? The South Beach Diet is one among the most popular weight loss programs that have been the talk…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
PROGESTERONE_test
Progesterone test The progesterone test is a blood test used to determine the level of hormone progesterone in the blood…
sodium blood test
Blood Sodium Test A blood sodium test measures the amount of sodium (an important electrolyte) in your body. It is also…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
carrageenan seaweed
Carrageenan: How a simple seaweed extract could better your gut health & immunity Eat more ice cream to prevent cold and flu? –With carrageenan you get one simple seaweed extract that…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
aspartame or sugar
Aspartame – Hidden truths about this storm in a teacup Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, has gone under the scanner on several occasions for allegedly doing more harm than…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Agave nectar: The bitter truth about this sweetener revealed Agave nectar is considered to be sweeter than the normal table sugar and even contains higher amounts of…
Plexus Slim: Is this pink slimming drink the ultimate one-stop fat burner? How effective is Plexus Slim in helping people lose weight? What are its ingredients? Can it be safely…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
These are the top foods to increase your hemoglobin count It is important to add iron-rich foods into your diet in order to increase hemoglobin. Deficiency of hemoglobin could…
Atkins diet weight loss
Atkins Diet: The right steps to carb control that can help you lose those pounds fast The Atkins diet is a high fat, low-carb diet with proven weight loss benefits that is flexible enough…
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
nature health benefits
Green Healing: The amazing health benefits of being in nature You have no idea what sitting in a closed room does to your body and mind.Can a stroll…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…