Changes in Vision Related to Medical Conditions

This page show how certain medical conditions can affect vision. After looking at the picture, move your mouse over the picture to see how you would view the image if you had that condition.

Cataracts

Move your mouse over this image to view it as if you had cataracts.

Move your mouse over this image to view it as if you had cataracts.

A cataract is a painless, cloudy area in the lens of the eye. A cataract blocks the passage of light from the lens to the nerves at the back of the eye, and it may cause vision problems. Changes in the lens of the eye are part of the aging process but normally do not develop into cataracts. However, cataracts are very common in older adults. Cataracts can also occur after an eye injury, as a result of eye disease, after the use of certain medications or as a result of medical conditions such as diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Yellow rubber ducky

Move your mouse over this image to view it as if you had diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that affects people with diabetes who have high blood sugar over a prolonged period of time. Too much blood sugar can destroy the blood vessels in the back of the eye, causing damage to the retina. Without the retina, the eye cannot communicate with the brain, making vision impossible. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy these blood vessels leak fluid and distort sight. In the more advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy fragile new blood vessels grow around the retina. If left untreated, these blood vessels may bleed, clouding vision or scar, detaching the retina.

Glaucoma

Hot air balloons

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Glaucoma is an eye condition that develops when too much fluid pressure builds up inside of the eye. The increased internal pressure can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause blindness within a few years. Glaucoma is most often inherited, meaning it is passed from parents to children. Less common causes of glaucoma include a blunt or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, blockage of blood vessels in the eye and inflammatory conditions of the eye. Glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes, but it may involve each eye to a different extent.

Macular Degeneration

Pots of roses

Move your mouse over this image to view it as if you had macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration occurs when the small central portion of the retina, called the macula, is damaged. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In fact, it is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 60. Macular degeneration often does not have symptoms and is unrecognized until it affects both eyes. The first sign of macular degeneration is usually distortion of straight lines. This may progress to a gradual loss of central vision.

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Last updated: June 26, 2015

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