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What is Loss of Vision?

Vision loss is when you lose all or part of your ability to see. Vision loss can sometimes refer to a loss of vision that can’t be helped by contact lenses or glasses.

The major causes of partial vision loss include:

  • Macular degeneration [MAK-yuh-ler dih-jen-uh-REY-shuhn]. Macular degeneration, which is vision loss that comes with aging, is one of the most common causes of vision loss in people who are older than 60 years. The disease destroys your central vision, making it harder to see in sharp detail. There are 2 kinds of macular degeneration:
    • Dry. Dry macular degeneration is the most common type and occurs when parts of the eye get thinner due to age. Also, a protein grows in the eye that can lead to a loss of vision. There isn’t any way to treat this form yet.
    • Wet. This is the less common type, but is more serious. New blood vessels grow that can threaten your vision. Vision loss happens faster with this type than with the dry type.
  • Glaucoma [glaw-KOH-muh]. Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve and can cause blindness. People who suffer from glaucoma may lose their side vision (peripheral vision), and then slowly lose the rest of their vision over time.
  • Cataracts [KAT-uh-rakts]. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye and are most common in older people. Many Americans will have cataracts or cataract surgery by the time they are 80 years of age.
  • Diabetes [dahy-uh-BEE-tis]. Diabetes can cause your vision to become blurred, making it hard to see at night, or there may be areas of your vision that are shadowy or missing completely.

Vision loss treatment depends on the cause of the vision loss. Your eye doctor will help you find the right treatment for your type of vision loss.


Vision loss symptoms depend on the cause of the vision loss. General vision loss symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty seeing while reading or driving — or any other daily task that you didn’t have any trouble with before
  • Difficulty seeing when there isn’t much light
  • Sudden increase in the strength of your prescription glasses or contacts
  • Loss of side vision
  • Loss of light perception
  • Loss of central vision

Macular degeneration symptoms can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Straight lines appear to be crooked

Glaucoma symptoms can include:

  • Loss of side vision
  • Feeling like you’re looking through a tunnel

Often glaucoma has no symptoms as it starts. An eye exam can reveal the condition.

Cataract symptoms may include:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Faded colors
  • Glare, and lights that seem too bright
  • Halo around lights
  • Poor night vision
  • Lots of prescription changes in glasses or contacts

Cataracts grow slowly, and glasses can help at first. Surgery may be a better option for cataracts that have been around longer.

Diabetes can damage tiny blood vessels in the eye. Symptoms may include:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Halos around lights, flashing lights, or blank spots
  • Dark or floating spots
  • Pain or pressure in one or both eyes
  • Loss of side vision

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor immediately if you notice a sudden change in how well you can see, even if you haven’t completely lost your vision.

It can be hard to tell if you have vision loss because the cause of the loss might not come with any pain. Regular eye exams can help detect and prevent more permanent vision loss.


Vision loss may be caused by many factors, including:

  • Glaucoma
  • Macular degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Diabetes
  • Accidents or injuries that hurt the eyes
  • Blood vessels that are blocked
  • Premature birth complications
  • Eye surgery complications
  • Lazy eye
  • Having a stroke
  • Tumors in or around the eye

Diagnosis and Tests

Vision loss may be diagnosed after your doctor performs an eye exam and gets a medical history:

  • Eye exam. Your doctor can give you an eye exam to see if there are any problems. The doctor may shine a light in your eyes, or ask you to read the letters on a chart to measure your vision. The doctor may also choose to dilate your eyes, which enlarges the pupils and makes it easier to see conditions of the eyes. This may lead to your eyes being sensitive to light. You may need to have someone drive you home after the exam. Dilation drops usually wear off in a matter of hours.
  • Medical history. Your doctor may also ask about your medical history, your family’s health history, and the prescription of your eyeglasses or contact lenses.


Treatments for vision loss depend on the condition that causes the vision loss. Here are treatments for the most common causes of vision loss:

  • Glaucoma
    • Eye drops
    • Medicine
  • Macular degeneration
    • Taking vitamin supplements may slow the onset of the disease
    • Medicine
  • Cataracts
    • Surgery
    • New glasses
    • Brighter lighting
    • Anti-glare sunglasses
    • Magnifying lenses
  • Diabetes
    • Laser treatment or surgery
    • Other standard diabetes treatments

There may be ways to help you cope with vision loss during day-to-day tasks. Some of those methods include:

  • Getting reading glasses, prescription glasses, or contact lenses.
  • Increasing the lighting in your home.
  • Removing glare.
  • Keeping your home organized so you don’t have to look for things.
  • Putting things back in the same place every time.
  • Using Braille or large print on things you need to read.
  • Labeling items.
  • Getting rid of things that can make you trip, such as wires or cables on the floor, loos rugs, or uneven flooring.
  • Using a cane.
  • Installing handrails.
  • Using a magnifying glass for reading the labels on medicines.

Talk to a vision loss specialist for more ways to live well with vision loss.


Vision loss can be prevented by:

  • Eating a healthy diet, including green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow fruit, fish, whole grains, and foods low in antioxidants.
  • Avoiding smoking.
  • Keeping blood pressure low.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Wearing sunglasses and hats when you’re outside.
  • Getting an eye exam frequently to check for new conditions in your eyes.
  • Wearing protective goggles when doing tasks that could harm the eyes, or when playing sports like hockey, racquetball, or football.
  • Avoiding looking directly at the sun.
Vision loss is when you lose all or part of your ability to see. Vision loss can be caused by macular degeneration, which is vision loss that comes with aging. It may also be caused by glaucoma, which is a disease that damages the optic nerve. It can also be caused by cataracts, which is clouding of the eye. It is also commonly caused by diabetes, or long-lasting high blood sugar levels. Vision loss treatment depends on the cause of the vision loss.