Any loss of sight other than total blindness is usually considered a visual impairment — not a disability. There is a wide range of vision exhibited by people who have a visual impairment. This can range from total blindness through various levels of increased blindness to total blindness, or the inability to perceive light or movement.
In the United States, blindness ranks third in terms of the health problems most feared by the public after cancer and AIDS. Legal blindness does not necessarily mean total blindness; 90% of people who are legally blind have some vision.
Formally, a person is legally blind if their central visual acuity is 20/200 or lower in the best vision eye, even with corrective lenses or if he has a central visual acuity of more than 20/200 if the peripheral field is limited to a diameter of 20 degrees or less. Informally, people who, even with corrective lenses, can not read the largest letter in an eye chart are considered legally blind.
Vision Loss and Blindness Symptoms
The signals that indicate you may be losing your vision are varying. If you or one of your loved ones is experiencing some of the following symptoms, consult an ophthalmologist or visit one of our centers for a free low vision consultation, just one of our many free programs and services for the blind and visually impaired.
- Difficulty adjusting to dark rooms or being outside at night
- Difficulty focusing on objects near of far
- Blinking or squinting due to excessive sensitivity to light or brightness
- Red or swollen eyes, or swollen eyelids
- Sudden pain in or around your eyes
- Dark spot in the center of your vision
- Double vision
- Dark spots or phantom images
- Sudden loss of sight in one eye
- Sudden blurred or cloudy vision
- Perceiving light flashes or bursts of black dots
- Seeing halos or rainbows around lights or spotlights
- Loss of peripheral vision (lateral)
Come visit one of our six locations today! Our services are free and our mission is to help you eliminate barriers to a fulfilling life caused by blindness and vision loss.
How to Know if You’re Losing Your Sight
Visual difficulties or loss of vision can occur long before a blindness is declared, so it is important to recognize the symptoms that indicate loss of sight. If you or someone you know experiences any of the following symptoms, call the Braille Institute to arrange a free vision loss assessment appointment. Our bilingual counselors can explain more about our free rehabilitation services.
- Constantly stumbling against objects
- Walking without safety or stability
- Rubbing the walls when walking
- Having trouble locating personal objects, even within familiar surroundings
- Trying to reach objects in a faltering way
- Having trouble reading, writing and recognizing familiar things
- Stopping reading
- Squinting or holding reading material too close to eyes, or at an angle
- Writing less clearly than before and having difficulty writing on a line
- Needing more light to read and do other activities
- Having difficulty identifying faces or objects
- Having trouble identifying colors and selecting clothes in unusual color combinations or designs
- Showing problems with placing food on fork
- Reaching off the plate for food while eating
- Filling a cup or a glass too much
Types of Vision Loss
Vision loss affects those older than 65, but many younger people also suffer from various forms of visual impairment. If you have been diagnosed with an eye disease or if your vision isn’t as good as it used to be, Braille Institute can help bring your life back into focus.
Diabetic Retinopathy is associated with both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes and is affecting a growing number of Americans. It is caused by the breakage of tiny blood vessels in the retina, resulting in hemorrhages on or in the retina, typically by prolonged and repeated exposure to high blood sugar levels. Untreated diabetes or poor disease maintenance greatly increases the risk of diabetic retinopathy. Depending on the severity of the disease, sight can remain near normal or can be lost entirely. Remaining vision may be blurred or distorted or the hemorrhaging may cause a deep reddish veil to form over the field of vision. Laser surgery often can be effective in regaining some vision, but the patient must continue to manage their diabetes through medication, diet, exercise and frequent monitoring of blood sugar.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
In people age 65 and older, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss. It is typically part of the natural aging process, but macular degeneration may also be inherited. It is caused by damage to the macula, the small part of the retina that gives sharp, forward vision. Symptoms include blurred, distorted vision, often with large blank spots in the central area of sight. However, Macular Degeneration rarely causes total loss of sight.
Retinitis Pigmentosa is a hereditary condition leading to chronic retinal degeneration. The disease causes a progressive decrease in peripheral or side vision, and is accompanied by abnormal deposits of pigment. Eventually, a person will only be able to see directly forward, a condition known as “tunnel vision.” This affects night vision as well as the ability to walk safely. It is rare that Retinitis Pigmentosa will cause a total loss of vision. At present there is no known cure or effective medical treatment for RP, although certain doses of Vitamin A have been found to slow the progression of the disease slightly.
There are various types of Glaucoma, though all are due to damage to the optic nerve. Generally, this is caused by high fluid pressure inside the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve. If left untreated, vision around the edge of the eye becomes increasingly restricted, narrowing the field of vision causing “tunnel vision” similar to that of Retinitis Pigmentosa. However, unlike with RP, total blindness can occur in those experiencing the Glaucoma as a result of damage to the optic nerve. If detected early enough, the damaging affects of the disease often can be treated with various drugs. Laser or conventional surgery can also relieve pressure and prevent further sight loss.
Cataracts cause a clouding of the lens of the eye. It is estimated that 95 percent of those over 65 years of age have some degree of cataract that may or may not cause blurring of vision in one or both eyes. If a cataract begins to cause vision loss that interferes with important activities, it can be surgically removed and an artificial lens implanted. This procedure usually results in a great improvement of vision.