April 17, 2024

Vision Impairment: Understanding Causes and Treatments

Vision impairment refers to a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses. Some major types of vision impairment include refractive errors, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration. This broad article aims to provide insights into the definition, types, causes, and impacts of vision impairment.

Types of Vision Impairment

Vision impairment exists on a spectrum from mild to severe. Some key types include:

Low Vision: Some vision is present but the best correction does not allow for the performance of daily activities. Low vision may reduce visual acuity to 20/70 in the better eye.

Legally Blind: Visual acuity is 20/200 or worse in the better eye with correction or has a visual field of 20 degrees or less. This level of vision loss qualifies as a legal blindness and meets eligibility standards for benefits.

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Tunnel vision, where peripheral vision is lost.

Complete Blindness: No light perception remains in either eye. Some experience complete blindness due to rare complications like glaucoma, bacterial infections, or injuries.

Outside of general categorization, specific eye diseases and disorders can also contribute to vision loss. Some examples are cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. These conditions are explored in further detail later.

Causes of Vision Impairment

Many factors can cause decreased vision or blindness. The leading causes globally are:

Uncorrected Refractive Errors: Conditions like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. Refractive errors are highly treatable but vision loss occurs when unaddressed.

Cataracts: A clouding of the lens in the eye which reduces incoming light. Cataracts are common in aging adults. Surgical removal can restore vision.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A deterioration of the macula which is responsible for central vision. Wet AMD causes faster vision loss and occurs more in smokers. Dry AMD progresses slower.

Glaucoma: An eye pressure condition that damages the optic nerve. Primary open-angle glaucoma occurs silently with few symptoms at onset. Left untreated, it can cause total vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy: A complication of diabetes mellitus that involve damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Proliferative DR is the cause of many diabetic vision impairments and blindness.

Corneal Opacity: Scarred clouding of the normally clear cornea. Often caused by malnutrition, infections like trachoma, or lack of access to basic eye care.

Other risk factors for vision impairment include cataract surgery complications, retinitis pigmentosa diseases, injuries, viral infections like CMV retinitis, and complications of premature birth in infants. Genetics also plays a role based on certain inherited conditions.

Impacts of Vision Loss

Vision impairment poses serious everyday challenges and reduces overall quality of life. Some impacts include:

Loss of Independence: Activities like reading, driving, cooking, and navigating become dependent on others. This loss of autonomy affects mental wellbeing.

Reduced Mobility: Impaired vision increases the risks of falls, fractures, and accidents along with inability to independently wayfind outdoors.

Social Isolation: Interacting with family/friends, hobbies, and community participation faces barriers. Isolation worsens existing mental health conditions.

Employment Issues: Vision impairment is a leading cause of reduced productivity, unemployment, and reliance on social welfare programs.

Higher Healthcare Costs: Treatment, medications, rehabilitation, and assistive devices place ongoing financial burdens on both individuals and public health systems.

Economic Burden: The total global cost of vision impairment and blindness was estimated at $3 trillion U.S. dollars annually due to direct and indirect factors.

Children’s Development: Vision impairment has significant effects on education performance, learning skills, social skills, and quality of life as a child grows. Early support is important.

Mental Health Issues: Depression rates are higher among those with vision loss due to the psychological impacts of diminished independence and social roles.

While modern medicine has made prognoses better than before, the challenge of vision impairment effects individuals, communities, and national economies at an immense scale. Improving access to vision and primary health care worldwide remains crucially important work.


In summary, this article shed light on vision impairment as an impediment to quality of life from medical, functional, social, and economic standpoints. Further initiatives are still needed to prevent avoidable vision loss through measures like expanded screening, treatment access, health literacy, and rehabilitation support. Coordinated efforts across eye care, public health and social welfare sectors will help alleviate the widespread consequences of decreased vision globally.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it