Four Leading Causes of Visual Impairment
John L. Keefe
There are the four leading causes of blindness and severe vision loss in the United States:
- Cataracts: More than 22 million Americans suffer from cataracts. A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of the eye that keeps light from reaching the optic nerves. Cataracts may be caused by injury, medications, diabetes, other diseases, or age. Symptoms include blurry vision, washed out colors, poor night vision, glare, and double vision. Sometimes, cataracts can be treated with corrective lenses. In other cases, surgery is necessary. More than half of Americans over age 80 either have cataracts or have undergone cataract surgery.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma occurs when an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. At first, there are no symptoms, but as the condition progresses, the optic nerve loses the ability to properly transmit images to the brain. Glaucoma is usually inherited, but it may also be the result of injury, eye infection, or the blockage of blood vessels in the eye. Approximately 2.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with glaucoma. It is estimated that an additional 2 million have not been diagnosed. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans and Latino Americans. There is no cure for glaucoma. However, early treatment with eye drops or surgery can prevent vision loss.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Macular degeneration is a disease that affects the macula, the part of the retina that is responsible for seeing fine details. It is most common in those over the age of 60. There are two types of macular degeneration:
- Wet AMD: Vision is lost when abnormal blood vessels start to grow under the macula.
- Dry AMD: The light sensitive cells in the macula break down and die, causing blurring of vision.
There is no cure for AMD, but early treatment can slow down the progression of the disease.
- Diabetic Retinopathy: More than 18 million Americans suffer from diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by diabetes and results when high blood sugar destroys the blood vessels in the back of the eye. When it is detected early, diabetic retinopathy may be treated with surgery or laser surgery. When it is allowed to progress, the retina may become scarred or detached, causing permanent vision damage.
Those who lose their vision because of cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy may qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI). The Social Security Administration (SSA) has the same criteria for all visual disorders, regardless of the cause. To learn more about SSA criteria for vision loss, read our article, “Social Security Benefits for Visual Impairments.” For more information about SSDI for vision loss, request a free copy of Unlocking the Mystery - The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, please contact the Boston SSDI lawyers at Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847
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