October is Blindness Awareness Month. Throughout the world, there are over 285 million people who are visually impaired with 39 million of these people being completely blind. There are degrees of vision loss and folks who are blind or visually impaired often lead fulfilling lives in their communities.
What is Blindness?
There are a wide range of vision levels exhibited in people who are visually impaired and 90% of people who are legally blind have some degree of vision. In order to be considered “legally blind”, one must have a central vision of 20/200 or lower in their best vision eye even with corrective lenses. Worldwide, the leading cause of blindness is cataracts, however the prevalence will vary depending on where you live in the world. Diabetes is a big risk factor, making one 25 times more likely to have visual impairment. In the United States, blindness or low vision affects at least 3.3 million people, with many of these people being older adults.
Vision Problems as You Age
Aging often makes people more susceptible to changes in vision and eyesight. Because of this, it is important to get regular eye exams and visit your family doctor- especially if you have diabetes! While not all eye conditions are preventable, many have more successful treatment outcomes if found early. Make sure to see a doctor as soon as you can if you have any concerns about your eyes or troubling symptoms such as loss of sight, blurry vision, pain, double vision, redness, swelling or discharge. The following list are some potential eye problems that may correlate with aging (not an exhaustive list).
- Presbyopia– The loss of your ability to see close objects or small print, may benefit using bifocals
- Floaters/Flashers– These are tiny spots or flashes of light that appear in your field of vision
- Dry Eye– Dry eye can be uncomfortable and have symptoms like itching and burning
- Cataracts– Cloudy areas in the lens in the front of the eye. Can often be removed with surgery
- Glaucoma– Usually related to increased pressure inside the eye. Can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness. Oftentimes people will not experience any early symptoms.
- Retinal Disorders– Retinal disorders are the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Examples include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal detachment.
People with visual impairment can often benefit from vision aids such as magnifying glasses, books on tape, and large-print books that use larger fonts.
The Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled is a great resource for library services in Maryland including events, large print books, and books in braille. Visit https://www.marylandlibraries.org/Pages/Maryland-Library-for-the-Blind-and-Print-Disabled.aspx for more information.
Our Call Connections program may also be a great fit for those with visual impairment looking for social connection. Learn more at: https://www.mealsonwheelsmd.org/get-meals/#support-services