A degenerative eye disease causes gradual loss of sight. Sometimes the warning signs are very subtle, and a person may not notice the loss of vision because the process is slow and painless. By the time the disease is diagnosed, enough vision may be lost as to cause a handicap in daily affairs.
Ordinary differences in visual acuity commonly affect half of the world’s population, such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. These are called refraction errors, and are due to corneas that are too long, too short or irregular in shape. These common conditions are not diseases, and normal vision is completely restored through glasses or contact lenses.
In Western countries, degenerative eye disease is often related to aging or lifestyle choices. The primary eye diseases leading to blindness are: age-related macular degeneration, (AMD), glaucoma, non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) and cataracts.
Warning signs of these conditions, along with the lifestyle choices that contribute to them, may be very subtle, but they are indications that a person is within the zone for vision loss.
High Blood Pressure
The retina behind the eyeball contains light-sensitive cells. Macular degeneration causes a person’s central vision to darken, due to damage of the light-sensitive cells. Central vision becomes blurred, and eventually darkens into spots of blindness. The spots typically grow larger. People with high blood pressure are proven to be more at risk for macular degeneration. As yet, it is not known whether blood pressure medications or the disease they treat makes macular degeneration more of a risk.
Smoking is known to raise the risk of macular degeneration. Smoking is the single most controllable risk factor contributing to this frustrating advance of blindness. Smoking causes the blood vessels behind the eye to constrict, reducing blood flow to retinal light receptor cells. Eventually, the vessels narrow. Smokers are three times more likely to develop macular degeneration.
Smoking also increases the development of cataracts by 50 percent. Although cataracts are removed in Western countries, they are a leading cause of blindness elsewhere in the world.
NAION, or non-arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy, is a long name for a very subtle, immediate blindness. People typically awaken in the morning with vision loss. An overnight drop in blood pressure or oxygen levels reduces blood supply to the optic nerve, causing immediate swelling and damage. Sadly, the optic nerve damage is not recoverable.
The typical effects of diabetes, such as high sugar levels and high cholesterol, contribute to this sudden and devastating disease.
Blindness from glaucoma is rare, but sight impairment is common and occurs in at least 10 percent of those diagnosed. Injury to the eye, inflammation or retinal blood vessel blockage due to the ravages of diabetes can precipitate the disease. If a person has any history of eye injury or diabetes, it is important that a professional from a healthcare provider checks for glaucoma eye pressure elevation.
Degenerative eye disease can be caused simply by the process of aging or genetics, which is not within our control. However, due to the devastating effects of blindness on quality of life, it is crucial to be aware of those indications that we can control.
Anica is a professional content and copywriter from San Francisco, California. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here. If you are experiencing any of the warning symptoms of eye degeneration, Anica suggests you contact a professional at All About Eyes.