Avoidable Vision Loss
Through LEHP-Australia Lions are working with their communities to reduce the impact and incidence of vision loss.
Did you know?
- Nearly 575,000 Australians are vision impaired in both eyes.
- This could increase to 801,000 by 2020.
- Three quarters of vision impairment is either avoidable or treatable.
- Vision loss can affect a person’s health and independent aging
- Research indicates that when a person loses their sight they have have incresed risk of:
- hip fractures
- social dependance
- early admission into a nursing home
- Statistics presented by Access Economics have demonstrated that the annual holistic cost of vision disorders in Australian is 16 billion dollars
The LEHP-Australia program focuses on 3 specific conditions; glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Without early diagnosis and treatment these conditions may lead to irreversible loss of vision.
Source: Centre for Eye Health
Glaucoma is a common eye disorder affecting visual function through damage to the optic nerve. It is commonly age-related, with incidence increasing after the age of 40 years. The condition affects one in 15 people over the age of 70. While rare in those under the age of 50, glaucoma can also occur in infancy and in the juvenile years.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that slowly damages the fine nerves connecting the eye to the brain. The damage generally occurs when pressure within the eye rises. If untreated, it causes a loss of peripheral vision, which can result in tunnel vision and even total blindness.
Early diagnosis of glaucoma is vital, particularly because people may have few or no symptoms in the early stages. In fact, one in two Australians with glaucoma may be
undiagnosed. At present, raised intraocular pressure and family history of the disease are two important risk factors for developing glaucoma.
Once vision has been lost, it cannot be restored. Prevention of vision loss is therefore an important factor in reducing the impact of glaucoma. The mainstay of treatment is daily eye drops to reduce intraocular and slow or halt death of neural tissue in the optic nerve.
Functional implications of glaucoma include:
Experiencing occasional blurred vision
Seeing a halo around lights
Being particularly sensitive to glare and light
Having difficulty identifying the edge of steps
Being unable to differentiate between the footpath and road
Tripping over or bumping into objects.
For further information, visit Glaucoma Australia glaucoma.org.au
Source: Centre for Eye Health
Diabetes is a chronic condition that can have adverse effects on the eye and visual function. Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) is caused by complications of diabetes. It damages blood vessels that nourish the retina at the back of the eye. This progressively results in blurred vision. Severe vision loss may be preventable if the DR is detected and treated early and appropriately.
DR typically begins as small microaneurysms (ballooning of small blood vessels) in the retina. Intermediate signs are small dot haemorrhages in the retina, as well as small areas of blood vessel leakage (exudates) and small areas of reduced blood supply (cotton-wool spots). Advanced DR involves the growth of new blood vessels on the surface of the oxygen-starved retina which can break and bleed very easily and lead to rapid vision loss. End-stage DR is characterised by internal eye (vitreous) haemorrhage, as well as retina scarring and detachment of the retina from the back of the eye (tractional retinal detachment).
DR is best minimised by maintaining good control of blood sugar levels and early detection of the disease progression through regular dilated eye examinations. Early detection allows for intervention in the disease process, either through laser photocoagulation, or intravitreal injection of Anti-VEGF pharmaceutical agents or steroids to halt or delay progression of the ocular disease. Treatment may maintain vision, though it rarely restores it.
People with diabetes also have an increased risk of acquiring other vision conditions, such as glaucoma or cataracts. Regular eye examinations are essential to detect these vision conditions.
Functional implications of DR include:
- Having difficulty with fine details (e.g. when reading or watching television)
- Having difficulty with outdoor travel
- Experiencing visual fluctuations from hour to hour or day to day
- Seeing images as rippled (e.g. straight lines appear bent)
- Experiencing blurred, hazy or double vision
- Losing some field of vision
- Having difficulty seeing at night or in low light
- Being particularly sensitive to glare and light
- Having difficulty focusing
Source: Centre for Eye Health
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a significant cause of profound vision loss in the Australian community, particularly among older Australians. Onset of ARMD is typically over 50 years of age, with the risk then progressively increasing with age.
This degenerative condition affects the macula, a small area at the centre of the retina. The macula is responsible for fine detailed vision, required for activities such as driving, reading and distinguishing colour. ARMD affects a person’s central vision, including both distance and near vision, and can lead to partial vision loss or blind-spot areas in the centre. The side (or peripheral) vision remains intact.
ARMD exists in two clinical forms: atrophic (dry) and exudative (wet). Current treatment options for dry ARMD are through vitamin supplementation and diet modification. Wet ARMD is managed using intraocular injection of anti-VEGF pharmaceutical agents. Early diagnosis and timely intervention are vital to preserving vision in ARMD.
Functional implications of ARMD include:
- Being unable to differentiate between the footpath and road
- Having difficulty identifying the edge of steps if there is no colour contrast
- Being unable to determine traffic-light changes
- Having difficulty reading, with blurred words and letters running together
- Having difficulty distinguishing people’s faces
- Having difficulty with close work
- Misjudging the speed and distance of oncoming traffic when crossing the road
- Having difficulty distinguishing between objects of a similar colour, due to dimming colour vision
- Having sensitivity to glare and light
- Having difficulty adjusting to lighting changes, especially in areas with low light
- Perceiving straight lines as distorted or curved.
- People with ARMD may be able to move around safely and with minimal difficulty, and locate items with their peripheral vision.
For further information, visit Macular Degeneration Foundation mdfoundation.com.au