What is Visual Impairment or Living with an Eye Condition?

What is Visual Impairment or Living with an Eye Condition?

Just as a camera creates images, the human eye too creates images that help us see. Without the eyes, it would have been a very different world for us. We are fortunate to have been blessed with the sense organ we call sight that help us to see and appreciate the world around us. However, not everyone is as fortunate and we meet people with vision impairment practically every day of our lives. Vision impairment is a serious condition and while some are treatable, others may not be so.

  • Overview
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Treatment
  • Living

Understanding the basics of the eyes

The human eye is capable of focusing on an object to collect an image of the same and send the signals to our brain via optical nerves. This way we are able to see the objects (and relate to) that our eyes have captured for us. However, due to a variety of reasons, this ability may deteriorate and in some cases diminish completely, leaving us at the mercy of medical tools and procedures to treat the poor vision conditions. Although most procedures turn successful and the affected person is able to carry on with his daily chores; in others, the efforts may not bear fruits.

Visual impairment is a common condition and can affect a person irrespective of gender, age, social strata or economic group.

Causes of Visual impairment

There are a number of causes that can trigger poor vision in a person. This includes:

  • Injury: Head injury is a common cause leading to poor vision. Headache, dizziness, difficulty in reading and blurred vision is just a few signs of this acquired condition.
  • Eye infection: Eye infections can easily be treated by medical professionals, known as ophthalmologists. However, in severe cases of infections such as conjunctivitis, and in case the condition is left untreated, it can lead to damage of the eye or even permanent loss of vision.
  • Cataracts: This one too is a common condition mostly affecting people over age 40-45. This condition typically takes many years to surface from the onset of the first signs. A person with cataract experiences a sight as if when looking through a frosted glass. Blurry vision is the main sign; this loss of vision condition can be successfully treated via cataract surgery. However, in case there are other untreated eye conditions too, a cataract surgery may not be successful.
  • Glaucoma: When the eye pressure is high, it may damage the optic nerve cells. This can trigger blurriness in the vision and in some cases even pain in the affected eye. This can gradually affect the vision and in severe cases lead to complete loss of vision.
  • Retinal detachment: Tumor, holes in the retina, eye trauma, etc. can detach the retina and its underlying layer. This can set off a series of signs such as floaters in the affected eye, light flashes or shadows in the vision area. It is an emergency-like situation calling for prompt eye care assistance.
  • Amblyopia: This is a vision development disorder also known as the lazy eye. It typically happens when the visual system doesn’t properly develop during childhood. In the later stages, the adult may face problems such as blurry vision, decrease in sight, etc. While it happens mostly in one eye, it can seldom be corrected via glasses or contact lenses. In the real sense, this isn’t an eye disease but a condition in which the brain isn’t able to correctly recognize the images that the amblyopic eye captures.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: People suffering from diabetes are often at a high risk of developing vision problems. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy. In this, the blood vessels start leaking via small branches. This causes issues in the vision and if left untreated, it may damage the retina. Unless the blood glucose levels are regulated, it may cause permanent loss of vision.
  • Retinitis pigmentosa: This is yet another serious eye condition that triggers decrease in the side (peripheral) vision, night vision, and initiates the process of loss of vision. There isn’t a cure yet for this disease; nonetheless, it can be prevented by taking care of the eyes via a healthy diet and by wearing sunglasses while being outdoors. This disease has a genetic condition and researchers are working to find a cure for it as well as some way to delay its progression.
  • Macular degeneration: Poor vision or loss of vision can also be triggered by macular degeneration. In a person affected by this disease, usually above 60 years, the macula – the central portion of the retina – starts to collapse. This condition can be caused due to genetic as well as environmental reasons. High blood pressure, obesity, family history of the disease as well as smoking increases the risk of muscular degeneration.

Visual impairment signs and symptoms

Vision problems typically exhibit the below mentioned symptoms. However, due to a serious injury, you may also experience bleeding or severe pain in the eyes. Nonetheless, the common signs are:

  • Itching of the eyes
  • Trouble seeing at night
  • Trouble differentiating colors
  • Halos, blind spots, blurry vision
  • Watery discharge from the eyes
  • Sharpness of vision diminishing gradually
  • Difficulty seeing objects that are near or far
  • Difficulty in seeing objects that are on either side
  • Sensitivity to light, double vision, dizziness, headache

Diagnosis and treatment for poor vision

To diagnose an issue with the eyes, an ophthalmologist uses a variety of tools and instruments. He may begin the procedure by evaluating your family history of eye illnesses. To check the proper functioning of the eyes, the doctor may check you through bright lights (to assess the sensitivity), ask you to read using a variety of lenses, and even assess if there’s an untreated underlying disease setting off the eye problems.

Depending upon the cause, poor vision may be treated via a host of methods including medication and surgery. In most cases, this proves helpful and the vision becomes better. However, in certain cases the use of vision aids is recommended.  This can include telescopic or magnifying glasses, lenses that filter light, reading prisms, etc.

Also, exercises that reduce eye strain can also prove handy.

Coping with poor vision

Sudden loss of vision or deteriorating eyesight can be a reason to worry. There may be a lot of adjustments to be made at home, at the workplace and so on to carry on with the daily chores. For people with poor vision, there’s a lot of help available in the form of:

Braille: A special writing system that uses raised dots in place of the text or numbers that visually challenged people use to read. This code is taught in schools for kids with poor or complete loss of vision.

Large print publications: For people who face difficulty reading small fonts, these prove handy.

Phones, watches etc. with enlarged numbers: This helps a person use these objects without an issue.

Screen narration software: Screen readers have enabled people with partial blindness or poor vision to efficiently work in professional set-ups without an issue. Narrator software reads aloud the contents of the screen making it easier for the person to carry on with the daily computing tasks easily.

With help from these tools and many others, a person can remain independent and productive even with poor vision conditions. Seek doctor’s advice the very first time you notice an issue in your eyes. Also, if you are already battling high blood pressure, diabetes or any other serious health condition, don’t miss to visit an eye specialist to get your eyes checked.

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