Blindness refers to a loss of vision that is not rectifiable by the use of glasses or contact lenses. Vision loss falls into two categories: Partial and Complete. This may occur suddenly, without warning, or over a period of time. In the United States of America, persons whose vision while wearing contact lenses or glasses is below 20/200 are considered blind by law.

The most notorious culprits among the numerous varied causes of blindness include:

1. Diabetes

A chronic disease in which the body’s blood sugar regulation mechanism fails, one of its manifestations is the raising of a patient’s blood sugar levels. A common symptom of raised blood sugar levels in people is blurred vision. This will occur in its early stages. Diabetes, developing over time, will more drastically interfere with the patient’s body, whereby they will present with diabetes complications comprising eye problems such as reduced night vision, light sensitivity, and ultimately, blindness.

2. Glaucoma

The term glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that specifically damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is what transmits images in the form of electric signals to your brain from your eyeballs for interpretation. The pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) is the most common cause of optic nerve damage.

Comprising; open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, congenital glaucoma and secondary glaucoma, these various classes of glaucoma come with their own host of symptoms and thus, should you present with any one of these, immediate attention from an eye specialist should be sought:

• Slow loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision)

• Sudden, severe pain in one eye

• Rainbow-like halos around lights

• A swollen eye feeling

3. Macular degeneration

The central focusing area of the retina is referred to as the macula, and when age-induced degeneration occurs, a resultant loss of central vision will occur while peripheral or ‘side’ vision will remain. It occurs most commonly in persons over the age of 60, earning it the label Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD or AMD).

It comes in two forms, ‘dry’ AMD, whose most common symptom is blurred vision, and ‘wet’ AMD, whose most commonplace early symptom is that straight lines will look distorted and wavy to the sufferer, sometimes coupled with a progressively enlarging dark spot in the center of the patient’s field of vision.

4. Retinal Damage

The focusing surface at the back of the human eye, the retina, when detached through mechanical action e.g. sporting injuries, will result in the patient experiencing partial vision loss- the half-drawn curtain effect.

5. Smoking

Smoking stands culpable for harming a smoker’s eyes just as it occasions harm in other parts of the body. Smokers run the risk of developing serious eye conditions that are capable of resulting in loss of vision or blindness.

Sudden loss of sight may present itself in a person as a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition, and, as such, must be addressed by healthcare professionals as soon as possible. Early assessment, diagnosis and treatment may well save the patient’s permanent sight, as well as their life.

Withal, it must be understood that our eyes carry out one of the most important functions the marvelous human body is capable of, and as such, special care needs to be taken by everyone in their maintenance and preservation.