There are an estimated 3.3 million+ US citizens today, who are either legally blind or suffer from low-vision, but the unofficial number is most likely much higher, and this figure doesn’t even take into account citizens who are totally blind.
More or less, as it is with most diseases and disorders, timely treatment is often what determines how effective it will turn out to be for the patient. As awareness is key to seeking treatment, we are going to highlight three of the most common visual conditions seen in the US, so that people can know and act, before it’s too late for any treatment to be effective.
Refractive Conditions of the Eye
Conditions related to refractive defects are by far the number one reason why people visit an ophthalmologist to get their eyes checked. This is both true in the US and pretty much everywhere else around the globe, but fortunately, a large majority of the cases are treatable with glasses and contact lenses, if not completely curable with corrective surgery. The bad news is that it can affect everyone from children to super seniors.
Refractive errors can be classified under four categories:
- Myopia or near-sightedness
- Hyperopia or farsightedness
- Astigmatism or blurry vision (both near and far)
- Presbyopia or loss of the eye’s ability to focus on things close to it; mostly exclusive to patients over fifty
In the States, the formation of cataracts is the most common reason why people lose most of their vision when they get old, as well as being the number one cause for blindness. So, exactly what are cataracts?
Normal human eyes have a pair of highly sophisticated natural lenses, which are each primarily a perfect combination of protein and H2O. As we age, the constituency of this protein begins to change, showing signs of clumping. This essentially turns the otherwise transparent lens cloudy and ultimately ends up blocking a large portion of reflected light rays from reaching the retina.
One might be surprised by the fact that reducing the chances of ever developing cataracts is possible by leading a healthy and fit lifestyle. Surgery is the only effective treatment if the proteins have already started clumping though. During cataract surgery, the translucent or opaque natural lens is replaced with an artificial one by the surgeon to facilitate the passing of light again. Causes for cataracts include, but are not limited to, congenital defects, trauma and of course, aging.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is the third most common disease that affects the human eye in the US. Although common and brought on by age in most cases, AMD is a complicated disease which requires a brief study to understand properly. For the sake of brevity, we have summarized the condition with a few important highlights:
- AMD damages central, detailed vision, as it degenerates the macula, slowly thinning it out
- Patients afflicted with AMD will find it increasingly difficult to read, drive, take aim, or complete any other task which requires sharp, clear vision
- This effect is a direct result of the fact that the macula is responsible for enabling us to see minute details
- In the US, macular degeneration is the number one reason behind the loss of fine vision
- AMD can be further classified into Wet and Dry (common)
- Wet AMD and dry AMD are both related to yellow/white deposits found under the retina, known as drusen
- Small drusen are common spots to see and should not be associated with AMD right away
- If the number of drusens is abnormally high, and the deposits are quite big, that can be considered as a sign of ensuing macular degeneration
Most of the time, older generations are not too keen on going to the doctor for a checkup, which in itself can be quite problematic. Whether it’s you, or someone close to you who is losing their vision, know that time is of the essence in these situations, and booking an appointment at the ophthalmologist’s clinic is highly advised for quick and necessary action.