Causes of blindness | 2 min read

According to the South African National Council for the Blind, millions of people around the world are walking around with sight-threatening disease. Unless you have your eyes checked regularly by a professional, you might not even be aware that your site is in danger. “The good news is that many eye problems and diseases can be treated if detected early.”

The most common causes of blindness in South Africa currently are cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease. Most of these potentially blinding conditions can be treated if detected early through the proper diagnostic tests.”

Specific symptoms to look out for include blurry vision, a sudden loss of vision, double vision, flashes and floaters and halos and glare around lights. These symptoms may indicate a very serious problem.”

Cataracts form when the clear human crystalline lens becomes hazy or opaque. This prevents light from entering the eye and forming a clear image in the brain. Cataracts can be treated by removing the human lens and replacing this with a clear synthetic lens.

Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing cataracts. Even more serious is the development of diabetic retinopathy. This is when the retina (light-sensitive back lining of the eye) develops bleeding and/or swelling. This is a potentially very serious condition and for this reason, diabetics should undergo annual dilated eye examinations.

Glaucoma is diagnosed when the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) is raised to such an extent, that it causes damage on the optic nerve (nerve leading from the eye to the brain). This damage causes peripheral loss of vision and eventually irreversible complete blindness. Glaucoma can be treated in the early stages by using medication or drops to lower the intraocular pressure.

AMD is an irreversible loss of central vision due to damage in the cells lining the back of the eye at the macula (the area responsible for sharp central vision). Treatment is limited in the early stages but in advanced stages, injections can dramatically improve central vision and limit the progression of vision loss.

Dr Marcel Niemandt, Ophtalmologist –


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