A leading cause of blindness in older people is a condition called age-related macular degeneration. The macula is located in the center of the retina (back of the eye) and is responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to see straight ahead. Aging can cause the macula to slowly degenerate and reduce central vision in people over 50 years of age. It is estimated that 8.5% of individuals between 43-54 years and 36.8% of those over 75 years have some degree of macular degeneration.
Approximately 5.7 million people in the United States have diabetes, which is a leading cause of blindness, yet only half of these individuals know they have the disease. Bleeding inside the eye may be the first sign of its presence. The major cause of blindness in people with diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy, a term used for all the abnormalities of the small blood vessels of the retina caused by diabetes.
The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from its normal position. If not promptly treated, a retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss. Anyone can get a retinal detachment; however, they are far more common in nearsighted people, those over 50, those who have had significant eye injuries, and those with a family history of retinal detachments.
An estimated 1.6 million individuals over 40 years of age in the United States have glaucoma, and the risk increases significantly with age. Sadly, approximately half of these people don’t know they have the disease. Almost every case of glaucoma develops without symptoms. Long-standing glaucoma without treatment can lead to severe vision loss. Early detection and treatment can reduce the severity of vision loss.