I've been going blind my whole life. I was born with choroideremia, a rare, inherited disorder that causes gradual vision loss. My doctors diagnosed it when I was 14, after my pediatrician saw small spots in my eyes. I had known I was having trouble seeing, especially at night, but at that age I didn't care. But then the doctors said, “You'll have a hard time in your 20s, a very hard time in your 30s, and you'll be blind by 60."
They were right. I am 49 now and almost completely blind, except for...
About 3.3 million Americans aged 40 or older are blind or have low vision. This is about 1 in every 28 people.
By 2020, that number could be 5.5 million -- a 60% increase.
NEI has identified the most common eye diseases in people over age 40 as:
Age-related macular degeneration
Diabetic eye disease
To catch eye conditions early and help prevent vision loss, your doctor may recommend an eye exam every two years or more often after age 60, or if you are at high risk for an eye problem.
Here's what you should know about these threats to your eyesight.
Your Eyes and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) damages, then destroys, central vision, your "straight-ahead," finely detailed vision. This eye disease takes two forms, dry and wet. About 90% of AMD cases are dry. The remaining 10% are wet, a more advanced form. Wet AMD is more damaging, causing about 90% of serious vision loss.
AMD is painless. It may worsen slowly or rapidly. Dry AMD may affect central vision within a few years. Wet AMD can cause sudden and dramatic changes in vision. In either case, early detection and treatment are key to slowing vision loss. See your eye doctor right away if you notice:
Straight lines appearing wavy, a symptom of wet AMD
Blurred central vision, the most common dry AMD symptom
Trouble seeing things in the distance
Problems seeing colors correctly
Difficulty seeing details, like faces or words on a page
Dark or "blank" spots blocking your central vision
Treatment of AMD
Wet AMD treatment may include:
Special drug injections (by far the most common treatment)
Dry AMD treatment is aimed at monitoring or slowing the progression of the disease. Vision loss from advanced dry AMD cannot be prevented. But taking certain dietary supplements may help stabilize the disease in some patients. One large study has shown that taking high doses of the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and zeaxanthin, along with zinc may help slow AMD progression in cases of:
High risk of progressing to advanced AMD
Advanced AMD in just one eye
However, this regimen did not prevent AMD onset or slow its progression in early-stage disease.