Blindness can result from infections, accidents, genetic conditions and other diseases. Types of blindness can range from no vision at all to seeing shapes. Some types can be prevented or cured, but other types can’t be treated.
Blindness is the inability to see or a lack of vision. In the most severe cases, there’s an inability to see even light. It also means that you can’t correct your vision with eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye drops or other medical therapy, or surgery. Sudden vision loss is an emergency. It’s important to seek immediate medical help.
You might wonder about color blindness, which is not blindness in the traditional sense. Another name for this issue is color deficiency. You perceive colors in a different way. You can inherit this condition or acquire it because of disease or damage that occurs in your retina or optic nerve. If you can only see black, white or shades of gray, you have achromatopsia.
You may also hear about preventable blindness or avoidable blindness. These terms refer to blindness that happens to people that have a diseases that is treatable but they never receive care. This often happens because of a lack of access to eye care or healthcare. For instance, people who never receive care for diabetes may develop diabetes-related retinopathy. People who don’t receive care for hypertension may develop hypertensive retinopathy.
Blindness is common throughout the world and in the U.S. It can happen to anyone.
In the U.S., about 1 million people are blind. Experts expect this number to double by 2050. There are many more people with low vision. Around the world, an estimated 43 million people are living with blindness.
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With complete blindness there is a lack of vision and the inability of the eye to detect light.
Symptoms that you may have while vision loss develops include:
There are many causes of blindness, including injuries, infections and medical conditions.
Eye injuries, or ocular trauma, can happen in many ways. It usually affects only one eye. Damage can result from:
Many infectious diseases can lead to vision loss and sometimes blindness. These include:
Many non-infectious diseases can cause blindness, but some in only the most severe stages of the disease. These include:
A provider will test each eye for sight, giving you a thorough eye exam. It’s possible for blindness to affect only one eye.
Tests may include:
The type of treatment available depends on your condition. Providers can treat some forms of blindness with medications or glasses but can’t treat other types, such as the ones where your eyes are missing or completely damaged. In these cases, your provider may recommend visual rehabilitation. The goal of vision rehabilitation is to enhance visual functioning so you can meet your visual goals and improve your quality of life. Often, this happens through low-vision training, therapy and using low-vision devices.
Treatment exists for some forms of blindness, depending on the cause and how extensive the eye damage is.
You can’t prevent some types of blindness. But blindness is preventable in many cases.
Some governments and societies are working to stop blindness caused by preventable diseases, like trachoma. They’re making medicines more available in large areas of the world.
On a personal level, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of partial or total blindness. These include:
If you’re completely or partially blind, there are options. It may help to learn as much as you can about your condition.
Living with blindness affects your life and the lives of your family and friends. It affects your mobility, your ability to care for yourself or others, your employment – it even affects how you relax and have fun. Some of these issues may be even more pressing for older adults.
Get immediate medical help if you:
You probably have many questions for your provider. They may include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hearing a diagnosis of blindness may bring on many emotions because of the inevitable impact on your life. It’s important and practical to get whatever support you need. Members of your healthcare team are there to answer questions and help to provide tools to make sure you have the best quality of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/14/2022.
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