Devastating Causes of Blindness
in Elderly

The causes of blindness are many - and there is help.
When Dad started having severe vision loss, I needed to find out what to do. I learned that the causes of blindness can usually be pinpointed. And if it's found on time, there are treatments and solutions. You may know the number of seniors with loss of vision and eye disease is huge and growing. And it doesn't just affect the patient.

Blindness is one of the more serious elderly issues. Dad's problem very much affected our entire family. Not just him.

When our father started losing his vision from macular degeneration, his life and ours suddenly changed. Along with the daily living adjustments came the wondering and worry whether it would be permanent, and just how blind he would become.

At the time Dad's eye problem was first diagnosed (he think he was in his eighties), there was not much in the way of treatment, including the eye injections. When he came to live with me, the full impact of his serious vision loss hit home. We had to quickly make adjustments and learn about macular degeneration help.

About Macular Degeneration

This condition can do serious damage to the retina that causes loss of vision in the central visual field, the macula. Some eye doctors call this almost epidemic now and in the future. But headway is being made.

When I began taking care of Dad, I started studying in earnest about the causes of blindness and what could be done. He'd had the usual cataract surgery as well, but another family member did not attend to cataracts in a timely manner and had permanent trouble. After many lengthy conversations with his eye specialists, I came to understand about these various causes.

Primary Causes of Blindness

There are four major causes of blindness in the elderly, all of them potentially very serious:
   *  macular degeneration
   *  glaucoma
   *  cataracts
   *  diabetic retinopathy (see below)
This section and the accompanying links below deal with many facts about blindness and loss of vision in baby boomers and elderly people. Because what causes the causes of blindness in the first place?

Other Causes of Blindness

Causes can be hereditary, such as with macular degeneration  Others may stem from separate health problems such as diabetes.

Certain ethnic groups may have more of a tendency toward certain types of blindness. It is reported that blue-eyed Caucasians have higher rates of macular degeneration; whereas, African Americans have higher rates of glaucoma.

Extremely poor nutrition can also cause progressive loss of vision. This can be observed in third-world countries. Some medications may have occular side effects, such as prednisone, which can contribute to cataracts.

And of course, the older we get the higher the risk of any type of blindness, as the eyes weaken and wear out. One eye doctor commented to me that if a person gets old enough, it is very likely that he/she will inevitably develop cataracts.

I once took an informal poll just out of curiosity of about 20 elderly people in a nearby retirement center, aging from in their 70s to 90s. Every single one of them had had cataracts.

Startling Statistics

The statistics on blindness in seniors and loss of vision are astounding. It has been estimated that right now about one out of three Americans (and increasing) over the age of 65 will have some type of more-than-average vision loss. (Will that mean me too? Or you?)

By 2030, the elderly population over age 65 in the U.S. will be around 70 million. This vision loss, of course, is partly due to the aging of baby boomers. It is also expected that the over-85 populations will increase to about 7 million.

These one in every three Americans with some type of vision loss may be "legally blind" by 65; especially by age 85. So this will become even more of a health problem than it is now. Besides the obvious health- and cost-related issues, there is a lessened ability to cope with activities of daily living (known as ADL). Coping with blindness is serious business.  Depression in the elderly from vision loss is therefore also common.

Both the The National Eye Institute and the American Academy of Ophthalmology do recommend that all those over 60 get a full eye exam with dilation yearly. Especially if you have a history of eye disease in your family, as we do in ours -- macular degeneration, which is one of the most common forms of blindness.

When Our Eyeballs "Melt"

There are eye changes are a normal part of aging, and not all lead to loss of vision. Nor are they necessarily causes of blindness. As one of our eye doctors explained, the eye is full of a jelly-like substance known as vitreous fluid. As we age, this substance begins to break down.

He compared it to a can of frozen orange juice. When the can of frozen juice begins to melt, it starts to liquefy and pull away from the sides of the can. Our vitreous fluid does much the same. It begins to somewhat liquefy. As this occurs, you may see “floaters” or notice little flashes of light, especially around the outside edges of your vision – your peripheral vision.

These conditions are a normal part of aging. They are not always causes of blindness. Do not panic or assume you are on your way to becoming legally blind. However, if you have any concerns about changes in your vision, do see an eye specialist right away. It can mean the difference in permanent vision loss.

Also check out:

Care of Elderly - Don't Be Overwhelmed -- Get lots of tips and insights about caregiving based on our experiences, as well as possible setbacks that may be faced.

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