When a person begins to experience sight loss, they may develop a variety of symptoms, such as blurred vision, the presence of spots in their central vision, and the loss of peripheral vision.

The term “vision loss” can refer to either the complete or partial loss of vision. It is a common occurrence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12 million people in the United States above 40 years of age have vision impairment. This includes 1 million people who have blindness.

In this article, we outline the symptoms of vision loss and discuss the potential causes of blindness. We also list possible treatments and tips for healthy eyes.

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If a person is experiencing sight loss, they may develop a number of symptoms. These can include:

Below are some of the potential causes of vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when aging causes damage to the macula. The macula is a part of the retina. It controls sharp, straight-ahead vision. When AMD causes damage to the macula, it can blur a person’s central vision.

AMD is one of the leading causes of vision loss in older adults. It does not cause complete blindness, but losing the central vision can make it harder to:

  • see faces
  • read
  • drive
  • do close-up work, such as cooking or fixing things


A cataract is a cloudy area that appears in the lens of the eye. The lens is the clear part of the eye that helps focus light. Most cataracts develop due to natural changes in the eye as a person ages.

When a person is young, their lens is often clear. Then, as they age, proteins in the lens begin to break down and clump together. These clumps cause the lens in the eye to become cloudy, causing cataracts.

Cataracts can take time to develop, and a person may not notice they have a cataract at first. Over time, the cataract can worsen, making a person’s vision:

  • blurry
  • hazy
  • less colorful

Cataracts are a major cause of blindness around the world.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a potential complication of diabetes. DR occurs when diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. DR varies in severity depending on the number of blocked blood vessels, but it can lead to permanent vision loss.

According to the CDC, DR is the leading cause of blindness among adults in the U.S.

In the early stages of DR, a person may not experience any symptoms. Others may experience symptoms such as having trouble reading or seeing objects that are far away. These changes may come and go. In the later stages of DR, a person may see floating spots or streaks in their vision.

Early diagnosis and treatment of DR can help reduce the risk of vision loss. However, around 50% of people with DR receive a diagnosis that is too late for treatment to be effective.


Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. This is the nerve present at the back of the eye.

In its early stages, glaucoma may not cause a person to develop any symptoms. Over time they may start to slowly lose their vision. This often begins with peripheral vision.

Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma, but early treatment can help stop damage to the optic nerve and protect a person’s vision. Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Treatments for vision loss depend on the cause. Below are different treatment options for certain causes of vision loss.

Treating AMD

There is currently no treatment for early stage AMD. If a person has intermediate AMD, their doctor may recommend that they take dietary supplements to help prevent it from turning into late AMD.

Wet AMD is a less common type of AMD that causes faster vision loss. If a person has wet AMD, a doctor may recommend anti-VEGF drugs and photodynamic therapy.

Treating cataracts

If a person has early stage cataracts, they may be able to make the following changes to manage them:

  • using brighter lights at home or work
  • wearing anti-glare sunglasses
  • using magnifying lenses for reading and other activities

A new prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses can help a person see better with cataracts. If a person’s cataracts start to get in the way of everyday activities, a doctor may suggest they have surgery to remove them.

Treating DR

Treatment for DR cannot undo damage to a person’s vision. However, treatment can stop a person’s vision from getting worse. Treatment options for DR include:

  • Injections: A doctor may inject anti-VEGF drugs into the eye to slow down or reverse DR.
  • Laser treatment: Laser treatment can reduce swelling in the retina. Doctors can also use lasers to make the blood vessels shrink and stop leaking.
  • Eye surgery: If the retina is bleeding a lot or there is excessive scarring in the eye, an eye doctor may recommend a type of surgery called a vitrectomy.

Treating glaucoma

Treatment for glaucoma cannot undo the damage to the eye. However, treatment can prevent the damage from becoming worse. Treatments for glaucoma include:

  • Medications: Prescription eye drops are the most common treatment for glaucoma. They lower the pressure in the eye and prevent damage to a person’s optic nerve.
  • Laser treatment: Doctors can use lasers to drain fluid from the eye to reduce pressure.
  • Surgery: If medications and laser treatment do not work, a doctor may suggest surgery. There are a number of types of surgery that can help drain fluid out of the eye.

To help prevent vision loss and maintain good eye health, the CDC suggests:

  • visiting an eye doctor for a regular comprehensive dilated eye exam
  • carefully managing:
    • blood sugar levels
    • blood pressure
    • cholesterol
  • being aware of family eye health history
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • wearing protective eyewear where necessary
  • avoiding smoking
  • wearing sunglasses that block out 99–100% of both UVA and UVB radiation
  • taking regular screen breaks
  • properly cleaning hands and contact lenses

If a person notices a change in their vision, they should contact an eye doctor right away. This is because early diagnosis and treatment are very important for a number of eye conditions, as they can help prevent any damage to the eye from worsening.

The term “vision loss” can refer to either the complete or partial loss of vision. Common symptoms of vision loss include blurred vision, the presence of spots in central vision, and the loss of peripheral vision.

There are a number of possible causes of vision loss, including AMD, cataracts, DR, and glaucoma. If a person experiences signs of vision loss, they should contact an eye doctor right away. This is because early treatment is important in helping prevent further damage to the eye.