7 Causes of Irreversible Blindness

There are certain blinding diseases, in which the vision lost can never be recovered. Knowing about these diseases and preventing them is the only way to protect your eyes from permanent #blindness.

Fortunately most of the eye diseases that cause blurring of vision are treatable and the patient recovers the lost vision.

However, there are a few eye diseases that can make a person permanently blind. These diseases can only be prevented, or treated at an early stage to prevent permanent blindness. But once the blindness occurs, there is nothing we can do to make the patient see again.

The blindness caused by these diseases cannot be reversed by any form of treatment, not even with eye transplant.

Let’s know about these diseases and how to prevent them.

Which diseases cause permanent blindness?

All of these diseases involve the retina, the optic nerve and the brain.

1. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the #1 cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye in which the pressure inside the eye increases and compresses the optic nerve that the back of the eye.

The pattern of vision loss in glaucoma is from the sides, typically like a “vignette”. And this vision loss is typically painless and occurs slowly over many years so most people don’t realize till it is very late.

In the end stage of glaucoma, the patient is left with just tunnel vision which is also eventually lost, leading to complete and permanent blindness.

“Glaucoma cannot be cured, but there are eye drops and surgeries available that can control the pressure of the eye and prevent further vision loss, so that the patient’s remaining vision can be preserved.”

People who have a family history of glaucoma are particularly likely to develop glaucoma. The only way to prevent glaucoma is by diagnosing it early and controlling it. Therefore it is recommended to get your eyes checked regularly. I will be writing a detailed blog about glaucoma soon.

The image below describes the pattern of vision loss in glaucoma.

2. Advanced Diabetic Eye Disease

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy that can affect your vision.

In early stages, diabetic retinopathy is curable simply by controlling the blood sugar levels.

In advanced stages, the patient may need lasers and injections in the eye, and even eye surgeries to restore vision. Even after such extensive treatments, the vision is rarely restored completely.

“The best way to prevent permanent blindness due to diabetic retinopathy is by controlling blood sugar strictly and by getting a yearly eye checkup done.”

I have already published a blog on Diabetic Eye Disease.

The image below depicts the pattern of vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy.

3. Age related macular degeneration

As we cross the age of 60, degenerative changes begin in the retina. That can lead to blindness.

“Scientific studies have confirmed that anti-oxidant rich diet can prevent the progression of age-related macular degeneration.”

You could read about the best antioxidant rich foods for healthy eyes that I have listed in my other blog.

The pattern of vision loss in age-related macular degeneration is depicted in the image below. Notice the central blindness and peripheral blur.

4. Retinal Artery Occlusion

This is a blinding condition in which the blood supply of the eye gets blocked. Patients experience sudden painless blindness, usually in just one eye. It is similar to a “brain stroke” that occurs due to blockage of blood supply to the brain or a “heart attack” that occurs due to blockage of blood supply to the heart.

The blockage in the blood supply mostly occurs due to increased blood cholesterol, raised blood sugar, or high blood pressure. Once the blood supply is blocked, the retina does not receive its required oxygen supply, the cells begin to die causing permanent blindness.

“To prevent retinal artery blockage, ensure that your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are always under control.”

If you are taking medications for these conditions, do not stop them unless advised by your doctor.

The pattern of vision loss in retinal artery occlusion is severe. Except for a small central island of vision, everything else goes black. End stage glaucoma also results in vision like this.

5. Toxic retinopathies

It is a condition caused by a toxic reaction to the optic nerve (the nerve responsible for vision.)

It can be caused due to various poisonous substances as well as due to some nutritional deficiencies. Two of the most common causes of blindness due to toxic retinopathy are tobacco and methyl alcohol.

Often you must have read news about people going blind due to consuming cheap liquor? What actually happens to those patients is “toxic retinopathy” due to methyl alcohol.

“Methyl Alcohol poisoning can lead to sudden complete permanent blindness. Tobacco slowly kills your retinal cells leading to permanent irreversible blindness.”

Your vision is too precious to risk it for the sake of smoking and drinking. The best time to quit is now!

6. Traumatic eye injury

Trauma is an important cause of permanent blindness. Sometimes it is the eyeball that gets directly injured. Such injuries are obvious and the trauma victim is often rushed quickly to a hospital and treatment is started.

Some injuries are however more serious. Sometimes, especially in cases of road traffic accidents, there is a fracture in the bones of the skull and the optic nerve at the back of the eye gets trapped in the fractured bones. In such cases, the eye may look normal, but the nerve is severely injured causing immediate permanent blindness. Sometimes, due to a head injury, the part of the brain responsible for vision could get damaged leading to blindness.

In some cases, neurosurgeons may be able to surgically salvage some vision if the patient is taken to the hospital within 6 hours of injury, but partial blindness always occurs in case of optic nerve or brain injuries.

Remember,

“Always wear a helmet while riding a two-wheeler. It will save your precious life and vision.”

“Never drink and drive!”

“Always use eye protection while working with wood, metal or chemicals where the chances of eye injuries are high.”

7. Cancers of the eye

Cancer is a dreaded disease, and unfortunately even eyes can develop cancers.

The most common cancer among adults is “melanoma” and the most common eye cancer among children is “retinoblastoma”.

Cancers of the eye can lead to blindness, and often to save the life of the patient, the affected eye may have to be removed. However if detected at an early stage, several eye cancers are curable and not only can the patient’s life be saved, but also blindness can be prevented in the affected eye.

“The exact cause of cancer is unknown. However if you have a family history of cancers, it is recommended that you go for regular eye checkups so that the cancer can be detected at an early stage and treated, that can save both life and vision.”

I will be writing a separate blog on eye cancers and their treatment options soon.

I hope this blog has helped you understand the various causes of permanent blindness and how to prevent them.

Remember,

“Vision is precious! Do everything you can to protect your eyes as they are God’s greatest gift.”

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at neha.pednekar1489@gmail.com

I’ll see you soon in my next blog, till then take good care of your eyes and stay healthy!

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