What is Vision Loss?
Vision loss is when a person’s ability to see clearly decreases to a level not correctable by usual measures like glasses, contacts, medication or surgery.
Living with Vision Loss
Vision loss can interfere with the individual’s ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) from reading to recognizing faces. Vision loss can happen gradually or suddenly, and can lead to minimal, partial or complete loss of vision. Vision loss is also referred to as vision impairment.
Prevalence of Vision Loss
Blindness and vision impairments are becoming increasingly more common worldwide. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment, and 1 billion of those individuals have a vision 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.
Common Types of Vision Loss
Central Vision Loss
Refers to the loss of detailed vision. It will feel like missing detail or seeing blurry spots in the centre part of your visual field. The blurry spots can turn dark or black as the damage progresses. This is often associated with macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Peripheral Vision Loss
This is sometimes referred to as tunnel vision as it affects the wide-angle field of view, even though your central vision may remain fine. It creates a sense of seeing through a narrow tube. Peripheral vision loss is often associated with glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa.
Sudden Vision Loss
Vision loss that occurs over a period of a few seconds to a few days is considered sudden vision loss. Vision may become blurry or cloudy or affected by flashing lights or specs in the visual field called Floaters. This is often associated with retinal detachment.
Common Causes of Vision Loss
Vision loss can be caused by a number of things. As our population ages and diets change, diabetic and age related eye conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are growing increasingly more common worldwide. In fact, a study done by iovs shows that 65 per cent of those with visual impairments and 82 per cent who are blind are over 50 years old.
Here are the most common eye conditions worldwide:
This happens when a part of your retina, called the macula, is damaged and results in central vision loss.
Caused by diabetes and results in increasingly blurred, patchy and fluctuating vision.
The clouding of the eye’s lens and the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Rare Eye Conditions
While these conditions may be less common, there are thousands of people living with rare eye diseases today.
- Stargardt’s Disease: This is often called juvenile macular degeneration. It’s a genetic disease that causes central vision loss in children and young adults.
- Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH): Underdevelopment of optic nerves that results in moderate to severe vision loss in children.
- Ocular Albinism: This genetic condition reduces the pigmentation of the iris. Typically a child with OA can see but has impaired vision.
- Retinopathy of Prematurity: This can happen in premature babies causing an abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina.
- Cone-Rod Dystrophy (CRD): A group of genetic eye disorders that affect the light sensitive cells of the retinas causing vision loss over time as the cones and rods deteriorate.
- Optic Atrophy: Affects the optic nerve which carries signals from the eye to the brain causing blurred vision and difficulties with colour.
Protect your vision by knowing the signs of vision loss
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, see a doctor 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
Losing your vision can be challenging, but there are resources and communities available to help you transition.
- Lions Clubs: strives to prevent avoidable blindness and improve quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired
- Sightsavers: treats and prevents eye conditions, fights debilitating diseases, and campaigns for disability rights
- NFB: defends the rights of blind Americans, provides information and support to blind children and adults, and builds a community that creates a future full 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 those 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
Sight-Enhancing Technology for Vision Loss
eSight Eyewear is clinically proven to significantly enhance vision for people living with visual impairments, legal blindness and vision loss. The low vision aid, commonly referred to as glasses, is used daily by thousands of people living with vision loss most commonly caused by macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, Stargardt’s disease and more.
Types of Low Vision Aids
There are many low vision devices available to help improve visual performance. Each device offers their own pros and cons. It’s up the individual to find the right fit, or the right combination of devices to work towards their needs. Here are some options for low vision aids:
Typically low-tech, hand-held device to help either near or far vision, but not both.
Examples: Telescopes, Monoculars, Binocular, Spectacles.
Best Scenarios: Far and middle distances such as the zoo, or reading small print.
CCTV Video Magnifier
Closed Circuit Television or video magnifier allows the user to control the magnification on their monitor.
Best Scenarios: On-screen activities only
Text to Speech
Text-to-speech reads aloud digital text words on computers, smartphones and tablets. Some advanced versions recognize faces.Closed Circuit Television or video magnifier allows the user to control the magnification on their monitor.
Examples: iSpeech, OrCam
Best Scenarios: Reading and sometimes facial recognition.
Mobile Head Mounted Displays
Sits in front of the wearer’s eyes and uses a camera and software to project what the user is seeing, feeding the brain more information for enhanced vision.
Best Scenarios: Every-day, all-day use and mobility. Reading, watching TV, computer. Advanced options help maintain mobility
Will eSight Work for You?
eSight is currently used by thousands of users living with 20 different eye conditions from macular degeneration to stargardt’s disease. The Class 1 Medical Device is clinically validated to increase visual acuity of up to 7 lines while retaining mobility. Most commonly, eSight users live with 20/70 to 20/800 with their best corrective lenses but eSight has also enhanced vision for people up to 20/1600.
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.
Vision Loss FAQ’s
How do you treat vision loss?
You can speak to an ophthalmologist to treat the specific eye conditions or manage your vision issues. There are specialists like physical therapists and assistive technology specialists who can help prescribe and teach how to use optical aids. An occupational therapist can help teach normal daily activities and a social worker can help cope with emotional issues that may arise from vision loss.
What is the leading cause of vision loss?
The leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
Can you reverse vision loss?
Some types of vision loss can be reversed with medical intervention. It’s important to speak to your doctor about your options.
Can a blind person see again?
It’s possible that with medical or technological intervention, some people living with levels of blindness may be able to see. Medical devices like eSight are clinically validated to enhance vision for people living with visual impairments and legal blindness. In fact, many eSight users live with visual acuities of 20/70 to 20/800 but in some cases eSight has enhanced vision for people living with up to 20/1600.