Blindness

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Common Eye Problems and Infections

Is blindness preventable?

Blindness is preventable through a combination of education and access to good medical care. Most traumatic causes of blindness can be prevented through eye protection. Nutritional causes of blindness are preventable through proper diet. Most cases of blindness from glaucoma are preventable through early detection and appropriate treatment. Visual impairment and blindness caused by infectious diseases have been greatly reduced through international public-health measures.

The majority of blindness from diabetic retinopathy is preventable through careful control of blood-sugar levels, exercise, avoidance of obesity and smoking, and emphasis on eating foods that do not increase the sugar load (complex, rather than simple carbohydrates). There has been an increase in the number of people who are blind or visually impaired from conditions that are a result of living longer. As the world's population achieves greater longevity, there will also be more blindness from other diseases such as macular degeneration. However, these diseases are so common that research and treatment are constantly evolving. Regular eye examinations may often uncover a potentially blinding illness that can then be treated before there is any visual loss.

There is ongoing research regarding gene therapy for certain patients with inheritable diseases such as Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA) and retinitis pigmentosa.

Patients who have untreatable blindness need tools and help to reorganize their habits and the way in which they perform their everyday tasks. Organizations, such as the Braille Institute, offer helpful resources and support for people with blindness and for their families. Visual aids, text-reading software, and Braille books are available, together with many simple and complex technologies to assist them in functioning more effectively. In the United States and most other developed nations, financial assistance through various agencies can pay for the training and support necessary to allow a blind person to function.

John Milton and Helen Keller are well known for their accomplishments in life despite being blind. There are countless other unnamed individuals with blindness, however, who, despite significant visual handicaps, have had full lives and enriched the lives of those who have interacted with them.

REFERENCES:

American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Eye Health Statistics at a Glance." Apr. 2011. <http://www.aao.org/newsroom/upload/Eye-Health-Statistics-April-2011.pdf>.

Switzerland. World Health Organization. "Visual Impairment and Blindness." Aug. 2014. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/25/2015

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