7 Possible Causes of Blindness (And How to Minimise Your Risks)

Close up of a blue eye

Serious vision impairment is a problem affecting more than 2 billion people across the globe. According to the World Health Organisation, about half of those people are suffering from a condition that could have been prevented.

Are you unknowingly indulging in risky behaviours that could eventually lead to partial vision loss or total blindness? Hopefully not – but read on to discover 7 possible causes of blindness, plus steps you can take to minimise your future risks of suffering from preventable vision loss.

1. Cataracts

Cataracts cause the lenses of your eyes to become clouded and your vision to become less sharp. The World Health Organisation reports that cataracts are responsible for 51 percent of all blindness conditions on a global basis.

How to Minimise Your Risk of Developing Cataracts:

Expert consensus seems to be that cataracts aren’t totally preventable; however, there are multiple preventable risk factors associated with cataracts. You can take the following actions with a goal of delaying or preventing cataracts:

Don’t smoke. The New York Department of Health in the United States warns that smoking can lead to undesirable conditions including vision loss and blindness. If you’re already a habitual smoker, devote yourself to quitting as if your eyesight depends on it – because, in all seriousness, it probably does.

Don’t allow other people to smoke near you. Avoid lingering in areas where people have been smoking to avoid ingesting secondhand or thirdhand smoke.

Reduce your exposure to ultraviolet light by wearing a hat and protective sunglasses when you’ll be spending time outdoors in bright sunlight.

Eat antioxidant-rich foods, particularly foods that are high in vitamins A, C, E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids. These foods may have a protective effect on the eyes.

 Schedule regular eye exams and be proactive about following your doctor’s advice.

2. Uncorrected Refractive Error

Refractive errors include myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. In many cases these conditions can be corrected with spectacles.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Uncorrected Refractive Error: 

Keep regular eye appointments to have your eyes checked for these conditions. Follow your doctor’s advice regarding whether and when you might need to wear spectacles.

3. Glaucoma

There are multiple types of glaucoma. Generally, it is a condition in which fluid builds up in the eye. This, in turn, exerts pressure on parts of the eye including the lens, retina and optic nerve.

Glaucoma happens because of an accumulation of excess waste. The eyes fail to achieve the correct balance between the levels of fluid they’re producing and the amount that is able to naturally and easily drain away.

How to Minimise Your Glaucoma Risks:

Make routine eye appointments and have your doctor check for glaucoma and other conditions. Follow your doctor’s suggestions resulting from your eye appointments.

4. Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a condition in which the macula deteriorates. It can result in blurring or complete loss of the central field of vision.

 How to Minimise Your ARMD Risks:

Follow the same steps outlined above for minimising your risks of developing cataracts.

5. Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A is essential for proper functioning of your eyes and vision. A prolonged and severe deficit of vitamin A can lead to multiple adverse health outcomes including night blindness and actual blindness.

How to Minimise Your Risks of Vitamin A Deficiency:

Consume plenty of nutritious foods that are high in vitamin A. Some of the richest sources of vitamin A include butternut squash, sweet potatoes, kale and carrots.

Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcoholism is a risk factor for vitamin A deficiency. This is because alcohol consumption can adversely interfere with your body’s ability to metabolise vitamin A from the food you eat.

6. Medical Procedures Gone Wrong

Medical procedures are not foolproof. There have been documented cases when eye surgeries resulted in blindness. The odds of this happening are small, but it is a possibility.

Not all eye surgeries carry the same risk. Generally, Lasik procedures have extremely high success rates. There has never actually been a documented case of blindness resulting from Lasik surgery.

Laser eye surgery is one of the safest medical procedures available. The risks of blindness as a result of laser eye surgery are negligible, according to many experts.  

There are actually greater blindness risks from another type of medical procedure  – one that might surprise you, because it isn’t supposed to involve the eyes at all.

Cosmetic dermal fillers carry a small but serious risk of possible blindness. This can happen if filler is accidentally injected into any facial artery, even one that is a significant distance from either eye.

How to Minimise Your Risks of Blindness From a Failed Medical Procedure:

Have the Surgical Procedure Done Locally: It might seem tempting to travel abroad to have your surgical procedure; but if things go awry, a provider in another country may not be willing or able to provide you with proper continuity of care. Regardless, it is always wise to make an effort to keep your GP involved in the goings-on with your medical care.

Work With a Specialist Who Has the Proper Expertise and Training: If you need to have a medical procedure, be sure to only obtain treatment from competent specialists. Your GP can almost always refer you to a specialist who has the experience necessary to properly complete a procedure.

In the case of cosmetic dermal fillers, experts at the Therapeutic Goods Administration warn us that working with an inexperienced practitioner is inherently risky, and that permanent blindness is a possible outcome stemming from that risk.

Examine Online Profiles and Reviews: Use websites such as RealSelf.com to look up information about the doctors who will be performing your procedures.  

7. Trachoma

The bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis is best known for causing a venereal disease, but it can also be responsible for causing a bacterial infection known as Trachoma that adversely affects human eyes.

It starts out as an itchy sensation in the eyes and then progresses to swollen eyes, usually with discharge of pus from the eyes. The condition is extremely contagious.

How to Minimise Your Risks: 

Don’t use anyone else’s tissues or handkerchiefs. See a doctor as soon as possible if you notice pus or mucus being discharged from your eyes, or your child’s.

These are 7 of the most common causes of blindness globally, plus suggestions for protecting yourself from vision loss resulting from these conditions. Following these suggestions is likely to help you protect your eyes from harm and preserve your vision.

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