Over one million Americans over the age of 40 face the threat of blindness or are currently blind. Another 2.4 million are visually impaired. These numbers are expected to double in the next 30 years.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness. The disease affects over 5.3 million Americans aged 18 and older. Cataracts are common in people over the age of 60. More than 20 million Americans have been affected by cataract. Over 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with Glaucoma. This is a chronic disease that requires life-long treatment in order to control it. As people advance in age, macular degeneration sets in. More than 1.6 million Americans over the age of 60 are in the advanced stages of macular degeneration.
In diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels of the retina break down or become blocked, thereby impairing vision. Diabetes exacerbates the problem and the risk increases with age. Diabetics are encouraged to undergo regular dilated eye examinations. Laser surgery and a procedure called vitrectomy are effective treatments for diabetic retinopathy.
Macular degeneration affects the retina and reduces central vision. It is the most common cause for blindness in Americans over the age of 60. Laser therapy destroys leaking blood vessels and is a widely used form of treatment. A combination of zinc, along with vitamins C, E and beta-carotene can reduce the risk of macular degeneration by 25 percent.
Smoking, diabetes, excessive exposure to sunlight and increasing age are factors that contribute to cataracts. Cataract is a condition where the eyes lens gets clouded. Cataracts can be surgically removed and this process can help avoid vision loss.
Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, the carrier of visual information from the eye to the brain. It is difficult to diagnose in its early stages. A person does not experience loss of vision until a significant amount of nerve damage is occurred. Glaucoma can be controlled by timely diagnosis and treatment. Vision lost due to glaucoma cannot be restored.
Blindness and visual impairment is a significant burden on those affected, as well as the national economy. A healthy diet and lifestyle combined with care of the eye would ensure protection of vision which is critical to leading a normal life.