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Vision Loss
Overview
How can I tell if I'm losing my vision?

You might have vision problems if you have trouble with normal activities, such as reading mail, watching television, signing your name, paying bills or walking up and down stairs. You might also have trouble recognizing people. You may notice that you squint a lot in order to see things clearly.

Causes & Risk Factors
What causes vision loss?

Vision changes, such as trouble focusing on close objects, are a normal part of aging. The main causes of vision loss in people older than 40 years of age are:

  • Macular degeneration (say: "mak-yoo-ler dee-jen-ur-ay-shun). This is caused by changes in the macula. The macula is the part of the eye that gives you clear, sharp vision.
  • Glaucoma (say: "glaw-koh-mah"). This is usually caused by high pressure from the fluid inside the eye.
  • Cataracts (say: "cat-uh-racts"). This is caused by a clouding of the lens inside the eye.
  • Diabetic retinopathy (say: "die-uh-bet-ick ret-in-ahh-path-ee"). This affects people who have diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the eyes.

Other common causes of vision loss include injury, infections and vision changes associated with certain illnesses.

Treatment
How can my doctor help me if my vision is changing?

Visit your doctor if vision problems keep you from doing your normal activities. He or she can recommend the right treatment for you, depending on what is causing your vision loss.

Your doctor can also help you find specialists to treat your vision problems. For many patients, a team approach is the best way to treat vision loss. Some of the specialists your doctor may recommend include:

  • An ophthalmologist to treat the eye disease causing the vision problems.
  • An optometrist to manage the vision problems.
  • A doctor specializing in low vision to prescribe optical aids, such as special magnifiers and telescopes.
  • A physical therapist to help you with balance and walking problems, and to teach you how to use a cane if you need one.
  • An occupational therapist to help you with normal daily activities and to teach you how to use optical aids.
  • A social worker or therapist to help you cope with the emotional issues of vision loss.
Other Organizations
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
  • Do I have a disease that is causing my vision loss?
  • Can my vision loss be treated?
  • Is my vision loss permanent?
  • Is there a treatment that will help?
  • Should I see an eye doctor?
  • Will I go completely blind?
  • What can I do to make my life easier?
  • Are there any support groups you can recommend?
  • What resources are available in my area to help me?
  • Is there someone I can talk to about how I feel about my vision loss?
References
  1. The Visually Impaired Patient by Eric A. Rosenberg, MD, and Laura C. Sperazza, OD(05/15/08, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20080515/1431.html)