Formula Medical Group
Apple Valley, CA

James Krider, MD

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Vision loss

Loss of vision may be complete or partial and may occur gradually or rapidly depending upon its cause. Often, a loss of vision is due to a problem that originates in the eyes themselves, but it may also be a symptom of some other disorder. In some instances, the loss of vision is temporary, and full sight returns after eliminating the underlying problem. More often, however, at least some vision deficit is permanent.

Causes of vision loss

Brain cancer or abscesses
Any type of brain tumor or abscess may affect the eyes. In brain cancer, for example, headaches are the most common symptom, along with increasing irritability, mood changes, and disturbance or loss of sight, hearing, speech, taste, smell, or balance. In a brain abscess, areas of brain tissue become inflamed and may die. Symptoms such as impaired vision may develop, along with a constant severe headache, progressive weakness, vomiting, speech problems, confusion, and convulsions

Bulging eyes
When tissue behind the eve: swells, the eyes bulge, sometimes resulting in double vision. This swelling may be caused by an infection, thyroid disease, a blood clot or hemorrhage in the veins or arteries behind the eye, an injury to the eye or face, or a congenital deformity.

If the lens of the eve is not properly nourished, cataracts may form. This can occur in one or both eyes ana is usually associated with aging, but it may also be congenital or due to excessive exposure to sunlight radiation therapy, and. smoking.

In the U.S., diabetes is second only to cataracts as a cause of adult blindness. Diabetes damages the small blood vessels in the eyes, causing hemorrhages and scarring that eventually destroys eyesight.

Eye cancer

There are several types of eye cancer, all of which gradually destroy sight as they grow and press upon the optic nerve and other eye structures Retinoblastoma is a relatively common childhood cancer,

Any vision change should be investigated.

Any vision change should be investigated.

ocular melanoma, a cancer of the pigment cells (melanin), occurs in adults.

Eye degeneration
Also known as macular degeneration, this condition is a leading cause of diminished vision in the elderly. There may be a slow, painless loss of central vision, or distorted vision in one or both eyes.

Fractured skull
Blurred vision is one of the symptoms of a skull fracture, along with pupils of different sizes. Any head injury should receive prompt medical attention.

This is a disorder in which the fluid that normally drains into and out of the eye is obstructed, either suddenly or gradually. The resulting pressure inside the eyeball damages fibers in the optic nerve and causes visual disturbances. It usually develops during middle age, but it may also be present at birth.

High blood pressure
Long-term untreated high blood pressure (hypertension) damages blood vessels throughout the body, especially the small arteries in the eyes. As with diabetes, this can result in hemorrhages, scarring, and eventual loss of sight.

Inflamed iris
Also known as iritis, this inflammation of the tissues that surround the iris is characterized by blurred vision, pain, and sensitivity to light (photosensitivity).

Miniokes and strokes
Miniokes, which are also known as transient ischemic attacks or TIAs, often signal an impending, major stroke. While

attacks or TIAs, often signal an impending, major stroke. While the symptoms vary, they often include vision disturbances or temporary blindness in one eye. A stroke can cause similar symptoms, but they do not disappear as in TIAs.

Optic nerve inflammation and swelling
Many different disorders can cause the optic nerve to swell, including high blood pressure, head injuries, and infections. As a result, vision deteriorates and total blindness may develop.

Overactive thyroid gland
An overactive thyroid gland (Graves' disease or hyperthyroidism) can cause a wide spectrum of symptoms, including protruding eyes and double vision.

Retinal disorders
When small blood vessels in the eye rupture, the resulting hemorrhages may eventually form scar tissue over the retina, which can cause permanent blindness. The retina may also become detached from its supporting membrane, resulting in an abrupt impairment of vision, which can lead to blindness if the retina is not reattached. There also are genetic disorders, such as retinitis pigmentosa, in which the retina gradually deteriorates.

Advice about vision loss

  • Everyone should undergo periodic eye examinations. After the age of 40, this should include an annual glaucoma test.
  • Make sure that diseases that affect the eyes, especially diabetes and high blood pressure, are kept under control.
This article was last reviewed November 15, 2005 by Dr. James Krider.
Reproduced in part with permission of Home Health Handbook.
Abscess, brain
Bulging eyes
Cancer, brain
Cancer, eye
Eye degeneration
Fractured skull
Head injuries
High blood pressure
Inflamed iris
Optic nerve swelling
Retinal degeneration
Retinal detachment
Retinal pigmentosa
Strokes, mini
Sun sensitivity
Thyroid, overactive

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