Worldwide, between 300 million and 400 million people currently experience some form of blindness or visual impairment, with an extremely varied list of causes ranging from conditions affecting the eyes to conditions affecting the visual processing centers in the brain. However, the four most common causes of vision loss are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts. At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, we are devoted to aiding patients with all aspects of their visual health, and we believe that avoiding the permanent vision loss that can result from these four serious eye conditions begins with fully understanding the differences between them.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
As we age, the central portion of the retina, called the macula, where the most sensitive optical cells are located, can gradually begin to deteriorate. Eventually, this macular degeneration can progress to a point where the fine detail vision necessary for reading, distinguishing faces, or driving a car becomes blurred and distorted. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible severe central vision loss in Caucasians over the age of 50 in the U.S., and although there is presently no cure, early detection can often prevent or minimize the extent of vision loss, particularly as new and improved therapies become available.
Primary, open-angle form of glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, and the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. It occurs when injury or anatomical irregularity interferes with the continuous flow of aqueous humor into and out of the eye’s anterior chamber. If this clear, nutrient-rich fluid fails to drain properly, pressure can build up inside the eye, eventually damaging the ocular nerve and causing permanent vision loss. While there is no cure for glaucoma, it can often be treated and even prevented if caught in the early stages before irreversible damage has occurred.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 80 percent of people who have had diabetes for at least 15 years have sustained some damage to the retina as a result of diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes caused when chronically high blood sugar levels erode the walls of the tiny blood vessels in the eyes. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness, but if detected early, dietary changes, medication, and/or laser surgical procedures may help to manage the damage caused by the disease.
The most common cause of blindness for adults over the age of 40 worldwide, cataracts can result when age, injury, disease, or exposure to certain environmental factors (like ultraviolet radiation) cause an opaque clouding of the lens of the eye, making it increasingly difficult to see. Cataracts can be very effectively treated with cataract surgery, during which Dr. Segal uses advanced LenSx® laser system to gently remove the damaged lens so that it can be replaced with a new artificial intraocular lens implant.
The key to avoiding permanent vision loss to any of these conditions lies in early detection, which is why it is so important to undergo regularly scheduled comprehensive eye examinations. If you have any questions or concerns about your vision, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to schedule an eye exam with Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay today. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision healthy.