In the United States, the leading causes of blindness and impaired vision are primarily age-related eye diseases including AMD, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
Typically referred to as AMD, age-related macular degeneration is an eye disorder that damages sharp and central vision. AMD is the leading cause of permanent reading vision impairment and close-up vision among people 65 years and older.
It is estimated nearly 3 million Americans over the age of 40 are affected by this eye disorder, with over 7 million at substantial risk of developing it.
There are two forms of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD is more common, accounting for up to 90% of AMD cases.
Dry AMD is the thinning of the macula, the central part of the retina. This is a natural part of aging that results in a gradual blurring of central vision. Fortunately, dry AMD progresses slower than wet AMD. As the macula detiorates, central vision worsens. One of the most common early signs of dry AMD is drusen (tiny yellow or white deposits under the retina.) The drusen itself is normal and not the culprit of the vision loss, but increased amounts of drusen heighten risk of developing advanced AMD.
They often are found in people aged 60 years and older. The presence of small drusen is normal and does not cause vision loss. However, the presence of large and more numerous drusen raises the risk of developing advanced dry AMD or wet AMD.
Wet AMD is when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina grow under the macula. Untreated, these will leak blood and fluid and can cause damage that rapidly affects central vision. The most common early symptom of wet AMD is if straight lines look wavy to the patient.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that risk damage to the optic nerve, impairing vision and in advanced cases, resulting in blindness. It occurs when fluid pressure inside the eye increases overtime. Diagnosed early, serious vision loss can often be prevented with immediate and ongoing treatment.
"Open angle” is a chronic condition that progress gradually, over many years without any noticeable vision loss or symptoms. It is referred to as the silent or sneaky thief of sight, because of this lack of early symptoms.
While "closed angle" glaucoma can occur suddenly and is painful, and visual loss can be incurred quickly. Patients will experience enough discomfort that they seek medical help, often improving the odds of saving sight.
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s transparent lens. It is the leading cause of blindness, globally, and the leading cause of vision loss in America.
Cataracts can occur for a variety of reasons, at any age even at birth, though they are more common among people over 40 years old. The treatment for cataracts is surgical removal.