Vision Loss: Conditions, Causes, Signs, And Treatment Options
Last updated: June 27, 2022
Vision loss can highly interfere with an individual’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs)— these include things like reading, recognizing faces, and driving. Being unable to complete ADLs due to vision loss can have a major impact on how one operates and interacts with the world.
Fortunately, scientific research regarding eye health is advancing rapidly and constantly producing new treatments for vision loss. Now people with vision loss have more treatments than ever to choose from to manage (and improve!) their sight.
This article will address all things vision loss: signs and symptoms, conditions, diagnosis, causes, and treatment options.
What is Vision Loss?
Vision loss is understood as the sudden or gradual decline in the ability to see, and is also known as vision impairment. Most people in their life will experience some form of vision loss that can lead to minimal, partial, or complete loss of vision. This can be experienced through blurred vision, cloudy vision, blind spots, double vision, reduced night vision, or even loss of peripheral or central vision.
Prevalence of Vision Loss
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 2.2 billion people have a visual impairment, and 1 billion of those individuals have a visual impairment that could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed. Insufficient vision care or delay in seeking care are major contributors to the high incidence of vision loss. The global aging population is another contributor. In the United States, the National Institute of Health projects the number of people with visual impairment or blindness will double by 2050. While the incidence of vision loss increases with age affecting 12.2% of Americans aged 65-74 and 15.2% of Americans aged 75 or older, it can also affect the young. Nearly 3% of Americans under the age of 18 are visually impaired or blind.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms of Vision Loss
The first signs and symptoms of vision loss usually involve subtle changes to the visual field, such as blurry vision. These symptoms may indicate underlying eye conditions or eye diseases. If you notice your vision becomes blurry or fuzzy, or you are squinting more than usual while performing ADLs like reading, watching TV, recognizing people’s faces, or navigating stairs, you should consult your eye doctor.
Loss of Vision
There are numerous ways that vision loss or impairment can present. Read on to discover the most common types of vision loss and their signs and symptoms.
Central Vision Loss
Central vision loss denotes a loss of detailed vision when looking straight ahead. Many people with central vision loss feel as though they are missing details of their environment, seeing blurry spots in the center of their visual field, or having difficulty discerning distances.
Those blurry spots can turn dark or black as the eye damage progresses; this is often due to the macula beginning to deteriorate, which can be caused by diseases like Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy.
Peripheral Vision Loss (Tunnel Vision)
Peripheral vision loss is sometimes referred to as tunnel vision because it affects the wide-angle field of view. Often, people with peripheral vision loss experience no change to their central vision. This type of vision loss can present suddenly or gradually, and result in difficulty driving at night, sensing objects in their environment, or navigating busy environments.
Peripheral vision loss is often associated with Glaucoma, Scotoma, Retinitis Pigmentosa, or even a stroke.
Blurred vision describes the sharpness of one’s eyesight. When vision becomes blurry, people usually begin to squint and rub their eyes more frequently, or move closer to objects to view them better.
Blurred vision is common and can be caused by refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
While cloudy vision and blurry vision sound similar, they are different conditions. Most importantly, cloudy vision involves a fog or haze over the vision and cannot be improved through corrective lenses.
The main causes of cloudy vision are Cataracts, Fuchs’ Dystrophy, or Macular Degeneration.
Double vision, also known as Diplopia, describes the appearance of multiple images of a singular object in your vision. Many people with this condition experience disturbances to balance and mobility.
In most cases, damage to the nerve or muscles that control eye movement is responsible for double vision. However, other disorders can also cause double vision, including thyroid dysfunction, stroke, aneurysm, and diabetes.
Sudden Vision Loss
Sudden vision loss can occur within just a few seconds to over a period of a few days. Vision loss may be blurry, cloudy, or complete and may occur in either or both eyes. Some people with sudden vision loss may also notice a headache, eye redness, or eye pain.
The most common causes of sudden vision loss is interrupted blood flow to the eye, eye trauma, optic nerve damage, or retinal detachment.
There are multiple causes of vision loss and ranging levels of severity. Often, vision loss presents alongside additional symptoms. It’s important to attend regular eye exams that can detect progressive eye conditions that may have very few symptoms in its early stages. If you experience any of these, seek medical advice right away:
- Blurred vision not helped with regular methods like glasses and contact lenses
- Flashing lights, floaters or a gray shadow
- Sudden loss of vision in one eye
- Eye pain
- Eye injury: particularly if there is redness or pain that lasts more than 15 to 20 mins
Conditions and Diagnosis
Conditions And Diagnosis Of Vision Loss
A number of eye disorders can cause vision loss. In particular, the world’s aging population has contributed to increases in age-related eye conditions such as Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy. In fact, a study published in iovs journal shows that age plays a major role in vision loss, as 65% of people with visual impairments and 82% of people who are blind are over the age of 50.
The following describes the most common eye conditions worldwide:
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related Macular Degeneration is a common condition that causes partial vision loss through declining sharpness in central vision. Specifically, the reduction in sharpness is caused by the deterioration of the macula within the retina.
Symptoms of Age-related Macular Degeneration include poor night vision, blurry vision, visual distortions, and dark spots in the middle of the eye.
Diabetic Retinopathy is an eye condition that exclusively affects people with diabetes by causing damage to the retina through exposure to excess blood sugars.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy can include sudden vision loss, floaters, blurred vision, eye pain, and redness.
Cataracts occur when the eye’s clear lens becomes cloudy caused by a build-up of proteins on the lens.
Beyond cloudy vision, symptoms of a Cataract include muted colors, halos around light, reduced night vision, and double vision.
Cone Rod Dystrophy
Cone Rod Dystrophy is an inherited disease that causes the cones and rods in the eyes to deteriorate. Ultimately, this distorts how light is processed in the eye.
Symptoms of Cone Rod Dystrophy include decreased sharpness, sensitivity to light, blind spots, impaired color vision, and loss of peripheral vision.
Most people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of Glaucoma, so it is imperative to have regular eye check-ups for early detection. Once symptoms do present, they commonly include severe eye pain in the back of the eye, blurred vision, rings or halos around lights, nausea, and eye redness.
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia describes the underdevelopment of the optic nerve in one or both eyes due to a congenital condition.
Symptoms of Optic Nerve Hypoplasia can include blurred vision, lack of peripheral vision, light sensitivity, and loss of depth perception.
Ocular Albinism is a genetic eye condition that mainly affects males due to it being linked to the X-chromosome. People with this condition lack pigment in their eyes and experience vision loss-related side effects. Symptoms of Ocular Albinism can include blurry vision, extreme near- or far-sightedness, Nystagmus (rapid eye movements), poor depth perception, and even legal blindness.
Optic Atrophy is a condition that affects the optic nerve and causes damage to the visual pathway.
Symptoms of Optic Atrophy include a reduced field of view, inability to see fine details or colors, decreased brightness perception, and dimmed vision.
Retinitis Pigmentosa is a genetic medical condition that causes vision loss due to the retina being unable to process light properly. Over time, the retina’s rods deteriorate so they are increasingly unable to process light, especially at night.
Symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa include loss of night vision, loss of central vision, and loss of peripheral vision.
Retinopathy of Prematurity
Retinopathy of Prematurity is a disease that affects premature babies experiencing growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eyes. This condition often results in blindness.
Symptoms of Retinopathy of Prematurity are minimal initially but can result in lifelong vision loss or permanent blindness.
Stargardt disease causes vision loss by reducing clarity and sharpness. The disease is inherited and can cause vision loss to the point of legal blindness.
Symptoms of Stargardt disease include the gradual loss of vision in one or both eyes, reduced night vision, impaired color vision, hazy spots, and light sensitivity.
Common Causes of Vision Loss
There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of vision loss including:
- Congenital development
- Trauma or injury
- Stroke (high blood pressure)
- Vitamin deficiency
- Eye infection
- Other diseases or health conditions
Treatment Options for Vision Loss
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for people with vision loss. These include corrective devices and aids, high-tech assistive devices, as well as corrective surgeries.
Living with vision loss
Living With Vision Loss
There are many aids and assistive devices available to help people living with vision loss. These options include:
- Low Vision Aids help people improve their vision to help enhance their daily life. These include large-print books, glare-proof sunglasses, CCTV Video Magnifier, screen readers, and mobile head-mounted displays.
- Low Vision Magnifiers are optical devices that help people magnify their vision to better perform their daily tasks. These can include telescopes, camera magnifiers, low vision reading glasses, and hand-held magnifiers.
- eSight 4 is a clinically validated wearable device that is helping thousands of people with low vision achieve their goals.
Award-Winning Glasses For Vision Loss
Thanks to ever-advancing technology, there is a promising new wearable vision aid device on the market to help people with central vision loss to drastically improve their sight. eSight 4 is a clinically proven visual wearable assistance device that helps those with vision loss to conduct the daily tasks that are important to them.
eSight 4 is an electronic eyewear device that stimulates synaptic activity from the remaining photoreceptor function of its users’ eyes and provides the brain with increased visual information to naturally compensate for gaps in the user’s field of view. Users benefit from eSight’s leading-edge camera, liquid lens, high-definition display powered by smart algorithms, and cloud-based capabilities to improve their vision.
The best way for you or a loved one to try eSight’s electronic eyewear is with a home evaluation. You’ll get to try the device in the comfort of your own home, guided by an eSight specialist and user of the device.
What does loss of vision mean?
Vision loss describes the loss of sight, which can be either gradual or sudden. It can include partial or complete loss of vision and be caused by a range of conditions.
What causes sudden vision loss?
The most common causes of sudden vision loss are interrupted blood flow to the eye, eye trauma, optic nerve damage, and retinal detachment.
What are the symptoms of losing eyesight?
The first signs of vision loss usually include blurry vision, cloudy vision, seeing double, headaches, poor night vision, constantly squinting, or eye pain.
What are the different types of vision loss?
Some of the different types of vision loss are:
- Blurred vision
- Cloudy vision
- Double vision
- Sudden vision loss
What are the most common vision loss conditions?
The most common causes of low vision are Age-related Macular Degeneration, Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy, and Glaucoma.
Community Resources and Support Groups
Losing your vision can be challenging, but there are resources and communities available to help you transition.
- eSight Together: Provides an online community for people with low vision to access accessible COVID-19 related resources, connect with each other, and share inspirational stories.
- Lions Clubs: Strives to prevent blindness and improve the quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired.
- Sightsavers: Treats and prevents eye conditions, fights debilitating diseases, and campaigns for rights for people with disabilities.
- NFB: Defends the rights of blind Americans, provides information and support to blind children and adults, and builds a community that creates a future of opportunities.
- CNIB: Delivers innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empowers people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion.
- LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Provides education, training, advocacy, and community for blind individuals in California and around the world.
- CCB: Promotes the well-being of people who are blind, works with people with low vision or blindness, and promotes measures for conserving sight and preventing blindness.
- Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind: Provides Canadians with greater mobility and independence through the use of professionally trained guide dogs.