Causes of Blindness

  • Accidents, disease and birth defects are among the many causes of blindness. The Prevent Blindness America website reports that there are about 290,000 eye injuries treated each year in emergency rooms, and children under five account for about 10 percent of those injuries. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, there are about 2,000 eye injuries from fireworks alone, and up to 25 percent of those accidents result in permanent blindness or vision loss.

    One major cause of blindness is cataracts, which is a condition causing opacities and clouding of the eye's lenses. When cataracts form, they block the passage of light through the eye. Some people may be born with cataracts, but they are more likely to occur as we age. If they are large enough to cause serious visual problems, they can be surgically removed.

    Blindness can also occur as a side effect of diabetes. With treatment, diabetics enjoy a much longer lifespan; this length of time unfortunately sometimes leads to the development of diabetic retinopathy. The tiny blood vessels of the retina change, some may burst, and the retina may even break loose from the back of the eye. Early treatment can sometimes prevent blindness. Not every diabetic experiences vision loss.

    One in every seven or eight cases of blindness is caused by glaucoma. This disorder prevents the transparent fluid inside the forward part of the eye from draining properly, and pressure builds up inside the eye. If the pressure is not controlled, the eye is damaged, and blurred vision, a narrowed field of sight and eventually total blindness can be the result.

    Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness among Americans older than age 65, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Oasis website. The retina of the eye functions somewhat like the film in a camera, capturing light. The macula is the part of the retina that forms the sharpest image. With increased age or other conditions, the retina or macula may degenerate or break down, and central vision is lost, although peripheral vision may remain good. Laser surgery can sometimes help.

    A hereditary condition known as retinitis pigmentosa causes degeneration of the retina and the choroid, a related vascular area. Although the progression of the disease is different for everyone, it usually begins around age ten to twelve with some difficulty seeing at night and in poorly-lighted areas. The vision may begin to narrow, causing what is sometimes called "tunnel vision." By young adulthood, the person is usually legally blind, and progressively loses any remaining vision. There is no known treatment.

    There are many other conditions which cause vision loss, including stroke and HIV. If you experience any difficulty with your vision, see an eye specialist as soon as possible.