The five main causes of vision loss in Australia are uncorrected or under-corrected refractive error (62%), cataract (14%), age related macular degeneration (10%), diabetic eye disease (2%) and glaucoma (3%).
More than half of vision impairment is caused by refractive error. Long sighted or short sighted vision, astigmatism and presbyopia (loss of vision due to age) can be detected by routine eye examination. These types of refractive error are a major cause of vision loss. Refractive errors are commonly treated using corrective lenses, such as spectacles or contact lenses. Refractive surgery can also be used to correct some refractive disorders.
Is caused by the clouding of the crystalline lens of the eye and it is part of the natural ageing process. It is reported that everyone will develop cataracts if they live long enough. Cataracts can be detected by routine eye examination and if required can be corrected by replacing the lens with an artificial lens during cataract surgery.
Macular Degeneration (MD)
A chronic eye condition most common in people over 50, also known as AMD (age-related macular degeneration), in which the cells of the macula deteriorate and die. There are two forms: dry and wet; the dry form has three stages: early, intermediate, and advanced. Generally, macular degeneration does not cause complete blindness; peripheral (side) vision remains but some or all central vision is lost. MD is primarily age-related but other risk factors include family history and smoking.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR)
Is caused by uncontrolled blood glucose levels, which can lead to leakage of blood from damaged small blood vessels in the retina. If the disease progresses, new blood vessels can grow across the retina eventually causing damage of the retina. Laser surgery can be performed to slow this process.
Is called the ‘sneak thief of sight’, because there is no early warning to vision loss. It is a condition when the fluid pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) is increased. This occurs when the aqueous humour (the fluid within the eyeball between the cornea and the lens), which is produced continuously, does not drain properly. The pressure pushes on the retina, reducing the blood supply to the nerves of the retina causing them to die. As the optic nerve deteriorates, blind spots and vision changes develop. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, but the chance can be reduced if caught early and controlled by medication.