Blindness is a complete or near-total loss of vision. Although blindness is often irreversible, some therapeutic success is possible.
What is blindness
A visual impairment is described as blindness in which the human eye either does not exist or is very limited. If the definition of blindness is based on German legislation, one of the things that is blindness is if the better eye (despite the use of optical aids such as glasses or contact lenses) has a residual visual acuity of at most 2%.
According to healthknowing.com, blindness in the narrower sense does not include the symptoms of night blindness or color blindness. The German Social Security Code provides for a person concerned to be entitled to assistance in the event of blindness, as blindness is considered a severe disability.
In contrast to the concept of blindness, there is the term amaurosis in medicine; In the case of amaurosis, the person affected lacks any form of optical perception (one then speaks of complete blindness).
There are many possible causes of blindness; blindness can either be congenital or acquired in the course of life. Congenital blindness can be traced back, for example, to a lack of important structures of the visual apparatus or to undeveloped connections between the brain and the eye.
Blindness can develop in early childhood, among other things, when the brain structures that are related to perception do not differentiate sufficiently. A person can also have genetic predispositions at birth that can cause blindness in the course of life.
The most common cause of so-called acquired blindness in industrialized countries is a degeneration of the macula (the point of sharpest vision) due to aging processes. Other causes are diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma or diabetes.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
In most cases, the symptoms and symptoms of blindness are fairly straightforward. Those affected can no longer see and can therefore no longer orientate themselves properly. Blindness can either be present since birth or it can be acquired. If it occurs as a result of another illness or an accident, those affected usually suffer from other ailments and symptoms in addition to blindness.
The disease considerably restricts the child’s development and can therefore lead to significant symptoms even in adulthood. Above all, the everyday life of the person affected is significantly restricted, so that there are restrictions in movement. Most patients are therefore also dependent on the support of other people in their everyday life and can no longer easily carry out many everyday tasks.
Often, blindness also leads to psychological complaints or depression. In general, the disease increases the patient’s risk of accidents. If the blindness was caused by a tumor, this often leads to other complaints in the head area. However, no general prediction can be made about the course of these complaints.
Diagnosis & course
Blindness is often irreversible (it cannot be remedied by taking appropriate measures). In very rare cases, sudden blindness can occur, which disappears after a short time; this is also referred to in medicine as amaurosis fugax.
The course of blindness depends above all on the underlying cause of the blindness. If there is blindness, it can be particularly important in the further course of rehabilitation to provide the person concerned with skills and aids to lead an independent life.
Blindness is usually diagnosed on the basis of ophthalmological examinations in which, for example, visual acuity and pupillary reactions are measured. In some cases, imaging methods (such as MRI) or neurological examinations are also used in cases of blindness.
In the case of blindness, the further course of the disease is unfortunately difficult to predict and always depends on the individual situation of the person affected. Unfortunately, there is usually no particularly positive course of this disease here. In many people, blindness occurs from birth and can only be cured in very rare cases.
For some people, blindness also occurs in the course of life. This has to do with either genetic changes in the eye or an accident that could possibly occur. Even in such cases there is unfortunately no positive course of the disease.
The patient has to learn to live with blindness and to cope with his life even with this disease. Very often, sudden blindness leads to severe depression, which should then be treated by a psychologist. If the blindness has existed since birth, no psychological help is usually necessary.
In these cases the patient learns very quickly to deal with blindness and to live with it. In science, research is currently being carried out at full speed in this direction, in order to possibly bring light into life for blind people.
When should you go to the doctor?
Spontaneous blindness or severe vision loss in one or, in rare cases, both eyes is always a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Those affected should not classify this phenomenon as harmless and temporary, as there is always a very serious cause hidden behind these symptoms.
Sudden blindness is often due to processes in the brain. Possible causes are bleeding, edema or vascular occlusions which can be life-threatening, which makes it all the more urgent to see a doctor immediately.
Bleeding under the retina or vitreous humor as well as retinal detachment are possible causes of sudden blindness. Fast action is required, particularly when the retina is detached. Those affected should therefore react adequately to the first signs. An incipient retinal detachment can be recognized by a number of symptoms. Patients often perceive flashes of light or black dots. In the next stage, the field of vision narrows from the edge.
In the event of such signs, an ophthalmologist or the nearest hospital must always be consulted immediately. The same applies if there are injuries to the eye, even if impairment of vision is not immediately apparent. Even if you experience difficulties or pain after removing a contact lens, you should consult a doctor or an optician as a precautionary measure.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapy for blindness also depends mainly on the cause of this blindness. If diseases of the retina or the optic nerve are responsible for blindness, it is usually not possible to completely correct the blindness.
If retinal degeneration occurs in a patient, which can be hereditary and which can lead to blindness, one possible therapy is, for example, long-term administration of vitamin A ; in this way it may be possible to slow down the onset of blindness.
Gene therapy is a recent therapeutic method for combating blindness ; this showed the first successes with certain forms of amaurosis (complete blindness). If blindness is triggered very suddenly (for example by the occlusion of a vessel), therapeutic approaches can also show moderate success here; For example, measures to promote blood circulation can help improve vision.
Outlook & forecast
In most cases, the prognosis for blindness is not very optimistic. Thanks to scientific and medical progress, many improvements in this area have already been achieved over the past few years.
Some causes of inadequate vision can already be treated successfully in surgical interventions thanks to the developments in recent years. However, if the retina or the optic nerve are damaged, healing has so far been considered almost impossible. Only in rare cases, for example, by inserting a chip into the eye, a return of the eyesight and sufficient vision can be achieved.
Due to the very poor overall prognosis for blindness, treatment is often based on the patient’s individual sequelae. These are often psychological in nature. Since the sick person is dependent on the constant help and support of another person in order to cope with his everyday life, how to deal with the disease must be learned.
The support of a therapist can be helpful to strengthen general well-being, but also to prevent mental illness. If there are already psychological or emotional burdens as well as personality and behavioral disorders, medical supervision is necessary. This is the only way to ensure that the general state of health of the patient does not deteriorate further.
In order to prevent blindness, which is acquired in the course of life, it can be useful to prevent various risk factors that can lead to blindness. For example, experts recommend regular ophthalmological check-ups in order to be able to detect diseases, functional disorders or injuries to the eye at an early stage.
In this way, a subsequent blindness can possibly be counteracted. In order to avoid injuries to the eyes, which can lead to blindness, it is advisable to ensure adequate protection of the eyes during dangerous activities.
In many cases, blindness has existed since birth, so follow-up examinations are not necessary. The optic nerve cannot be restored, so affected people have to live with this disability. However, regular visits to therapists are recommended in order to be able to cope with everyday life accordingly.
It is different if blindness only occurs in the course of life. In such a case, it is much more difficult for those affected to live with this sudden restriction. Follow-up examinations with appropriate therapists and psychologists are urgently required in order to process this drastic experience.
Regular visits to the ophthalmologist are also absolutely necessary in order to continue to guarantee the chances of a cure. If you are blind, the chances of a full recovery are not very positive. If blindness has been present since birth, no further treatment usually needs to be taken.
If blindness only develops in the course of life, regular follow-up examinations can have a positive effect on the entire healing process. For this reason, the person concerned must not do without such follow-up examinations. Visits to therapists and psychologists can also help to live with chronic blindness or even to pursue an activity.
You can do that yourself
Blindness with its completely lacking or only slightly developed visual perception is usually associated with a pronounced need for help on the part of those affected. In order for the blind to get through life more easily and to be able to cope with their everyday life largely independently, they usually make use of small aids.
The mobility of the blind can be improved with a long stick or a guide dog. The long stick as a navigation aid helps the blind to identify the materials in their immediate vicinity. Guide dogs are intensely trained animals that can lead blind people past dangerous obstacles. So that the blind can be recognized by their fellow human beings at a glance, they wear a yellow armband with three black dots.
Blind people can read using Braille despite their limited visual perception. Braille is made up of small dots that are felt and deciphered with the fingers. Using voice output or the Braille display, blind people can also surf the Internet and find out about news.
To make the life of the blind easier, there are various aids for everyday use. Thanks to the bill validator and coin sorting boxes, the blind can handle cash independently. Adapted household appliances, such as microwave ovens with voice output, speaking measuring cups or scales, are also of great help in the household.