(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Loss of vision can occur suddenly, or more commonly, develop gradually over time. In many cases, the decline can be so subtle that people may not notice until a small issue such as irritation spurs them to visit the doctor for an overdue eye exam."That's why a baseline exam at age 40 is important," says San Francisco ophthalmologist Andrew Lwach, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "You may not have major symptoms, yet have a major problem.
"Below are 4 warning signs of vision loss that you don't want to ignore.
1. You experience unexplained blurred vision.Even if it clears up, fluctuations in vision clarity can be a sign of a number of eye problems. Blind spots in your field of view and unexplained blurred vision are often the result of diabetic retinopathy, a condition that occurs when uncontrolled diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure damage the delicate blood vessels of the retina.If you have type-1 or type-2 diabetes or hypertension, it's important to schedule an annual eye exam. If you are noticing changes in the clarity of your vision, and have trouble reading, sewing or performing other near-sighted tasks, be aware of other potential symptoms of diabetes or high blood pressure.
2. You were recently in an unexplainable car accident.Although there are a number of variables that can cause a traffic accident, one common cause is loss of peripheral vision, which can be a symptom of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the optic nerve and gradually worsens over time. According to a 2011 Review of Ophthalmology report, drivers who suffer from glaucoma have an increased risk of being in traffic accidents. Another study found that when glaucoma patients were paired with a driving instructor, they required six times more interventions from the instructor than the control group. If you find yourself repeatedly bumping into people or things, you may be losing your peripheral vision. Because the eye can compensate for this gradual loss of side vision, glaucoma is essentially symptomless and most diagnoses are made during routine eye exams.
3. An irritating dark patch appears at the center of your vision. If you notice a gradual loss of your central vision, you may be suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss among people over age 50. Other symptoms include seeing wavy instead of straight lines, trouble reading street signs, changes in color perception (e.g., colors seem washed out and dull) and struggling to "see around" a dark patch at the center of your vision. If you experience any of these signs, then you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor right away.
4. You notice a brownish tint to your vision. This type of vision change may be due to cataracts, which tend to worsen gradually over time. Cataracts are so common among seniors that by age 80 over half will either have cataracts or have undergone surgery to correct the issue. Although not a medical emergency, cataracts that are left untreated will eventually result in blindness. If your eyesight becomes cloudy and blurred, you notice "halos" around lights at night, or you are experiencing a loss of bright color vision, then you may be suffering from cataracts in one or both eyes. Because eye problems and vision loss become increasingly common as we age, any difference in what is normal for you merits a call to your physician and likely an eye exam.
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