You don’t have to be totally blind to see losing your vision affects more than the eyes.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the United State alone:

  • More than 20.4 million adults suffer from cataracts
  • 1.7 million suffer from advanced Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMG)
  • 7.3 million suffer from intermediate AMG
  • 2.2 million suffer from glaucoma

Don’t forget about the more than 4 million other adult Americans who suffer from some degree of blindness due to Diabetic Retinopathy . . .

Blindness, by the U.S. definition, is the best-corrected visual acuity of 6/60 or worse (= 20/200) in the better seeing eye.

Based on studies from the 2000 US Census, the leading cause of blindness among Caucasians was Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMG), represented by more than 54% of the cases. African-Americans suffered more blindness from cataracts and glaucoma, which accounted for more than 60% of blindness.

In conclusion, cataracts was the leading cause (54.4%) of low-vision among Caucasians, African-Americans and Hispanic people, while glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. The number of blind people in the US is expected to grow by 70% by 2020, with a similar increase for people suffering from low vision (worse than 20/40).

Glaucoma currently affects more than 3 million Americans and most people won’t see it coming – no pun intended!

Glaucoma is one of the most devastating diseases due to the fact that there are no symptoms until the disease reaches its advanced stages.

As nerve cells die, vision is gradually lost from the outer-peripheral, or side vision, towards losing center vision in the final stage.

Recent studies are revealing that 25% of people with glaucoma are under age 50.

As you can imagine, whether you suddenly or gradually lose your sight, the emotional, social and psychological stress that results from blindness can cause depression, grief and even panic.

The victims of blindness, as well as the people around, are all affected by the vision loss.

Self esteem, social status and independence are all threatened. Simple skills become overwhelming, but living in a constant state of isolation can eventually lead to grief, mental health problems and sadly to a deep state of depression.

Anti-depressants don’t usually help, but the prescription is pushed anyway, along with their dangerous drug side effects.

Counseling can be helpful, as long as family members and friends also go through the counseling, too.

Bottom line is adjusting to losing your vision is not easy. The best way to help is to assist the grieving process. In truth, they’ve lost the life they once had.

The low-vision person has even a harder time than a blind person overcoming the grief and loss, even leading to rage.

The worst thing you can do is treat them as less than equals. Their mental health totally depends on whether they get sincere help and are allowed to feel they are still valuable human beings.

P.S. Why take chances with your vision? Get tested by an ophthalmologist annually.

SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology 2004; 122:477-485