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Visual impairment can happen to children or adults. In the United States,
millions of persons have partial or complete loss of vision. It is important
to have regular eye examinations to detect early stages of vision loss. The
October 15, 2003, issue of JAMA includes an article
about the causes of visual impairment.
Conditions that may cause visual impairment
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Cerebrovascular (brain blood vessel)
disease or stroke
Atherosclerotic disease (cholesterol
deposits in blood vessels, including those of the eye)
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)Ñusually due to infection
with cytomegalovirus, a virus that affects the eye
Vitamin A deficiency
Infections involving the eyes
Some eye infections, including those caused by parasites, are more common
in developing countries. Infections in a pregnant woman can affect the fetus.
This type of vision loss, present from birth, is called congenital blindness.
Specific eye conditions
Macular degeneration—deterioration of the central part of
Cataracts—clouding of the lens of
Glaucoma—damage to the nerve connecting the eye to the brain
caused by increased pressure inside the eye
Tumors involving the eye or surrounding structures in the head
Schedule regular eye examinations to detect inadequate vision
correction, find cataracts, test for glaucoma, and evaluate general eye health.
Stop smoking. Smoking has been linked to development of cataracts
and macular degeneration in addition to all the other health problems smoking
Treat chronic diseases, especially diabetes. Good control of blood
sugar levels will help reduce your chances of developing diabetic
retinopathy, the eye problem caused by diabetes. Regular screening
eye examinations for persons with diabetes may help to detect diabetic retinopathy
sooner. This may limit eye damage by making earlier treatment possible.
Protect your eyes from sunlight and other ultraviolet (UV) light
exposure (such as tanning beds). Wearing UV-protective sunglasses and a wide-brimmed
hat helps to limit UV exposure to the eyes.
Wear protective eyewear when working with tools or during recreational
activities. Eye injuries are a common cause of vision loss for individuals
in the United States.
For more information
National Eye Institute 301/496-5248 http://www.nei.nih.gov
American Academy of Ophthalmology 415/561-8500 http://www.aao.org
Lighthouse International 800/829-0500 http://www.lighthouse.org
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on cataracts
was published in the July 9, 2003, issue; one on age-related macular degeneration
was published in the November 13, 2002, issue; and one on eye health was published
in the February 16, 2000, issue.
Sources: National Eye Institute, American Academy of Ophthalmology,
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval.
To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
TOPIC: EYE HEALTH
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Causes of Visual Impairment. JAMA. 2003;290(15):2088. doi:10.1001/jama.290.15.1961
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