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Sudden Blindness:
Understanding Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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1.What is Sudden Blindness?

Sudden Blindness is a condition when you suddenly find it difficult to see. People think that sudden vision loss is the same as complete blindness. However, they are not the same. You might experience blurry vision. You might feel like you are suffering from a sudden loss of peripheral vision. Else, you might even feel like a sudden loss of your central vision. All of these three problems fall under Sudden Blindness. The duration of Sudden Blindness can vary. It may last for only a few seconds or many hours. There is a chance that Sudden Blindness may be permanent if treatment is not received at the appropriate time.


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2.Sudden Blindness causes

Sudden partial vision loss can be caused due to multiple reasons. Migraines are the most common causes of temporary vision loss. Migraines may cause blind spots or you may feel like you are seeing flashing lights. Migraines cause Sudden Blindness in both eyes. Giant cell arteritis is another cause of temporary blindness in one eye. This can cause temporary vision loss in people who are over 50 years old. If left untreated, it can cause long-term or permanent blindness too. Another cause of temporary vision loss is retinal vasospasm in which blood flow is impacted due to the tightening of the blood vessels in your retina.

Closed-angle glaucoma can lead to temporary blindness in one eye due to excessive pressure on the eye. This is caused due to the bulging of the iris in your eye which prevents eye fluid to drain properly. It can lead to a host of different problems. You can see halos and may experience sudden blurred vision. If this is not diagnosed and treated on time, then it may lead to permanent vision loss as well. Another cause of Sudden Blindness is vitreous hemorrhage in which blood leakage occurs. This can cause blockage of light which then cannot enter the eye and it makes it difficult for you to view anything.

There are some rare causes of sudden loss of vision. A retinal migraine can cause Sudden Blindness in one eye. You may not be able to see for about 20 minutes. This may happen right before your migraine or when you are having a headache. Epileptic seizures can cause migraines although these are rare occurrences. About 10% of people who suffer from epilepsy, the seizures can have an impact on the occipital lobe. This can cause loss of vision when the seizure is taking place or after the seizure.

Another rare cause of Sudden Blindness is uhthoff phenomenon which affects people who have multiple sclerosis. People with multiple sclerosis who experience a rise in their body temperature can become temporarily blind in one or both eyes. Retinal vein occlusion rarely causes Sudden Blindness but it can still lead to temporary vision loss. In this condition, a retinal vein gets blocked. This blockage can be caused due to a blood clot. Temporary loss of vision can eventually lead to a buildup of fluid in the eye which can cause further swelling.

Sudden total vision loss can be caused due to a clot. A formation of a clot can cause temporary vision loss which can lead to a permanent or total loss of vision when prompt treatment is not undertaken. Temporary blindness can last for about half an hour, after which if treatment is not undertaken, you may lose your vision permanently. The clot blocks the retinal artery which may cause blindness. Else, it can be caused when there is blockage due to a clot in a blood vessel.

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3.Are you at risk for blindness?

Risk factors of blindness

Here are some of the factors that may make you more prone to becoming blind. These are:

  • People who undergo eye surgery may become blind.
  • If your work involves dealing with sharp objects, then you should refrain from getting your eyes in close contact with the sharp objects to prevent chances of any eye damage that may lead to temporary or permanent blindness.
  • People who have poor hygiene are at risk of becoming blind.
  • If you have diabetes then you are more likely to become blind in the future.
  • People who suffer from any type of cerebrovascular disease or cardiovascular diseases are more prone to blindness.
  • Stroke is one of the major causes that lead to blindness, temporary or permanent.
  • If you have certain eye diseases then you become more likely to become blind.
  • People who do not get proper nutrition are more likely to become blind. This is often the case in third-world countries.
  • People who have a family history of blindness are at a higher risk of blindness.
  • Babies who are born prematurely are at a higher risk of becoming blind.
  • People who are old are at a much higher risk of becoming partially or completely blind than those who are younger.
  • Lack of prenatal care can lead to blindness.
  • Smoking increases your chances of becoming blind than non-smokers.
  • If you work in an environment where toxic chemicals are used then you are more likely to become blind

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4.Prevention of blindness

Blindness can be prevented if you get your eyes checked regularly. Periodic eye examinations will ensure you are treated early in case you have any eye problems or in case of any sudden occurrences. This can prevent you from losing your vision. When you are diagnosed with a certain type of eye disease, then following your ophthalmologist’s instructions about what care needs to be taken are of high importance. This can help treat your problem. At any point, if you feel like you are suffering from blindness or any type of vision loss then you should make an appointment with your ophthalmologist at the earliest to ensure speedy treatment.

You must get your children's eyes checked when they are 6 months old and then when they are 3 years old. When they turn 6 years old, you should get their eyes checked once a year to ensure their eyes remain healthy and they have no trace of blindness. However, if you feel like they have symptoms of eye disease or any eye problem, then it is best to get their eyes checked by an ophthalmologist at the earliest. Waiting for the eye problem to go away on its own is never the solution and it can lead to permanent vision loss for children. This is why contacting an ophthalmologist is mandatory.

Some forms of blindness occur due to improper diet or diet lacking nutritional value. In such cases, blindness can be prevented by ensuring you are taking a proper diet. Proper eye protection can reduce the chances of you being blind. When an eye problem is detected early, blindness can be prevented as long as you take the necessary precautions suggested by your ophthalmologist. For instance, when glaucoma is detected early, on-time & appropriate measures can be undertaken to prevent blindness. Your ophthalmologist is the one who can best tell you which form of treatment is most suitable for you according to your case.

You should focus on eating foods that are low on sugar levels if you have diabetes. Managing your diabetes and controlling your blood sugar levels will help prevent blindness that can be caused due to diabetes. Proper exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is good for your overall health and your eyes too. You should focus on healthy habits and avoiding anything that raises your risk of becoming blind in the future. While some things might be out of your control, you should focus on things that you can control. You should ensure that if you are obese, you work towards getting healthier as a healthier weight decreases the risk of any type of blindness.

It is important to remember that some forms of blindness occur as people continue to live longer than their predecessors. While no prevention measures are available for such causes of blindness, research is continually being carried out.

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5.Diagnosis of blindness

An ophthalmologist or eye specialist will diagnose blindness by conducting several tests for adults. In the tests, each eye is individually diagnosed. This is because you can have Sudden Blindness in one eye or both eyes. Your doctor will check how clear you can see and how far you can see. He will then perform tests to see how your pupils are being affected when there is light and check if your pupils dilate when they are exposed to direct light. Your doctor will then test how well your eye muscles are functioning. Your eyes’ general health will be analyzed with the help of a biomicroscopy test.

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6.Treatment for blindness

How blindness is treated depends entirely on the cause of the blindness. If eyeglasses can help with treatment, then your ophthalmologist will advise you to use eyeglasses or contact lenses to help you see clearer and better. People who are blind because of refractive errors need to be given eyeglasses for treatment. In some cases, your doctor will prescribe medication that can help restore vision. For instance, people who have become blind because of inflammatory-related issues can get medications for treating their blindness. People who suffer from blindness caused due to infections can have medicines as a treatment option too.

For people who have blindness due to nutritional deficiency, they can be given proper nutrition for the treatment of blindness. In some cases, surgery can help treat blindness. For example, people who have cataracts can have cataract surgery for treating blindness. People who suffer from visual impairment due to corneal scarring can get treated with the help of corneal transplantation surgery. Not all treatments may be appropriate for your case. Your ophthalmologist will let you know about which treatment is most appropriate for you and which one will benefit you the most.

People with partial blindness who cannot be treated to restore their vision need to understand how to live with limited visual abilities. Your ophthalmologist will provide everything you need to know about how to make things easier for yourself. For instance, you can increase the size of the text on your laptop or computer. You can use a magnifying glass when you are reading books if that is easier for you. Rather than ebooks, you can opt for audiobooks as this will make things easier for you. Also, you can think of ways that you can do things easily without straining yourself too much.

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7.Prognosis and long term outlook

The cause determines the prognosis of blindness. However, if you can quickly get the required treatment, then there are higher chances of you being able to protect your vision and restoring it. If you take preventative measures to ensure that you are taking optimal care of your eyes then the long term outlook is good. Vision loss can be prevented with early diagnosis and proper treatment. For example, in the case of cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the outlook.

There are some causes of blindness that cannot be prevented or treated. For example, people who have suffered from blindness because of the damage to the optic nerve have a less favorable outlook. Moreover, people who became blind because of stroke have an unfavorable outlook too. People who have retinal detachment for a long time don’t have a good outlook either. Your ophthalmologist is the best person who can give you accurate information about what the outlook is like depending on the cause of your blindness.

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8.Blindness FAQs: All your concerns addressed

Q.   How many people are affected by blindness?

  1. About 350 million people all over the globe are affected by some form of visual impairment where they cannot see either partially or completely. 50 million people out of the 350 million are completely blind whereby they cannot tell light from dark. A high percentage of blindness occurs in people who are 50 years old or older. Although in developing nations, blindness can occur at a lower age due to inadequate medical care which means the inability to get the proper treatment on time.

Q.   What is legal blindness?

  1. Legal blindness is referred to as condition when despite treatment such as surgery, a person is unable to see properly. To be more specific, a person who is legally blind can see at 20 feet what a normal person can see at 200 feet. It is not a medical term but is being used by lawmakers in certain countries. People who can see normally with one eye but are blind from the other eye do not come under the category of ‘legally blind’. For example, in the United States, 700,000 people fall in the legally blind category. These people can get various government benefits such as financial help among others.

Q.   Should I wait for the vision to return if I think I have Sudden Blindness?

  1. No. You should never delay getting emergency care if you feel you experience Sudden Blindness. You should ask someone to take you to the emergency care as soon as you think that you have sudden vision loss. If you wait for too long, then there might be permanent damage to the eye which will cause further complications for you. The chances are much higher for you to get back your vision if you get appropriate treatment on time

Q.  What are the symptoms of Sudden Blindness in adults?

  1. If you are suffering from Sudden Blindness then you might be unable to identify different shapes in your surroundings. You might only see shadows instead of the actual object. Another symptom is tunnel vision, in which you can only see things that are in your central part of your vision rather than your peripheral vision. You might experience a cloudy vision when you have Sudden Blindness. Some people experience poor night vision if they have Sudden Blindness. If you feel discomfort of any type and have any kind of discharge from your eyes, then it can be a sign of an eye problem.
    The symptoms can vary. You can have only one symptom or you can have several symptoms of Sudden Blindness. The cause of the blindness determines the symptoms that you will experience. The key is to know if something seems off and then contact emergency care immediately if you feel that you have any symptoms of Sudden Blindness.

Q.   Is it true that papilledema can cause sudden temporary blindness?

  1. Yes, it is true, but it is also rare. Papilledema is referred to as the condition when the optic nerve swells due to increased pressure on the brain. This condition may lead to various vision problems. You might experience double vision or you might observe that everything looks very blurry. This temporary blindness lasts for just a few seconds and it can be accompanied by vomiting and headache. There are various causes of papilledema and these can cause temporary blindness. Other causes such as infections and high blood pressure can cause brain pressure too. Some medicines can put undue pressure on the brain as well, which would make you more prone to blindness.

Q.   What is a biomicroscopy test?

  1. A biomicroscopy test is widely known as a slit lamp exam. In this test, your eyes are being examined microscopically. This helps your ophthalmologist to detect any problems or abnormalities that are there in your eye. It can be used to diagnose a range of problems such as detached retina, retinal vessel blockage, macular degeneration, cataracts, and cornea injury. There is not much risk involved with this type of test but if you do experience any type of discomfort then you should contact your ophthalmologist immediately. It is normal for you to feel increasingly sensitive to light.
    This is how the biomicroscopy test works. Your doctor will put eye drops in your eye. These drops contain fluorescein which is a yellow dye. A machine will be put into place whereby you can rest your head so that your head is firmly positioned. Using a slit lamp and microscope, your doctor will examine each of your eyes. All areas of your eyes such as the sclera, conjunctiva, retina, eyelids, cornea, iris, and lens will be examined during this test. Different filters are available which enable your doctor to view your eyes in more detail. If your doctor diagnoses problems during the test then you may need some form of treatment.

Q.   What are the causes of blindness in children and infants?

  1. There are various causes of blindness and visual impairment in infants. Amblyopia, cataracts, congenital glaucoma, and strabismus are some of the problems that can cause blindness in infants. There are certain infections such as pink eye that can cause blindness in infants. Blocked tear ducts often cause blindness in children. Ptosis is another popular cause of blindness in children. Children whose visual system is developed slowly are more prone to blindness. Premature babies whose blood vessels aren’t completely developed yet can suffer from blindness due to ROP or retinopathy of prematurity.

Q.   How will I know if my child has symptoms of blindness

  1. It takes two years for children to develop their visual system. However, some signs might indicate your child is prone to blindness. If your child is constantly rubbing his/her eyes or unable to focus on an object then s/he is at high risk of being blind. Severe redness in the eyes, higher sensitivity and inability to stand light are the symptoms you should be watching out for to prevent your child from blindness. If your child has teary eyes most of the time and has any type of eye movement that isn’t normal, then there are chances of visual impairment.
    There is another sign that might indicate blindness. If your child has a white pupil then he might be suffering from visual impairment. If you see any of these signs and symptoms then you should contact a pediatrician immediately to ensure your child is given proper treatment before it is too late. Note that by 8 weeks, your child should be able to properly focus on a single object. By this time, his eyes should be able to follow the object without any difficulty. When your child is 4 months old, you should notice the proper alignment of his eyes. If something seems amiss, then you should book an appointment at the earliest.

Q.   What are some of the coping mechanisms of people who have become blind?

  1. If someone you know has become blind then the first thing you want to make sure is that they don’t feel dejected about it. It is a big change to suddenly not be able to see things. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no hope. You just need to help them learn new ways to make their life easier and convenient for them. A guide dog can help them and you can help them arrange their homes so that they can find what they need easily. Learning how to read braille is something that can be of utmost benefit. Various gadgets can make life easier for a blind person and you can research them.

Q.   Why choose Narayana Health for eye problems?

  1. Your eyes are precious and you want to give them the best possible care by choosing the best eye hospital in India. If you agree, then you know that it is important to seek the best eye specialist in India. Narayana Hospital focuses on providing the best eye care for a range of different eye conditions. You can get your eyes examined by the best eye specialist in Bangalore by booking an appointment. Narayana Hospital specializes in a range of treatments including those for glaucoma, cataracts, anterior segment surgery, refractive surgery, and pediatric ophthalmology.

Q.   How does blindness affect a person?

  1. Visual impairment can limit people's ability to perform everyday tasks and can affect their quality of life and ability to interact with the surrounding world. Blindness, the most severe form of visual impairment, can reduce people's ability to perform daily tasks, and move about unaided.

Q.   Is Sudden blindness a sign of stroke?

  1. Most strokes affect one side of the brain. If the right occipital lobe is injured, the left field of vision in each eye may be affected. A stroke that affects the left occipital lobe may disturb the right field of vision in each eye. Rarely, both sides of the brain are affected, but this can result in blindness.

Q.   Can anxiety or stress trigger Sudden Blindness?

  1. Stress certainly affects every single function in your body. Anxiety itself is known to affect vision. It can cause the pupils to dilate, which lets in more light which can lead to eye pain. It also can contribute to eye strain, which may lead to more vision problems. Anxiety can cause double vision, blurry vision, and in a few rare cases, hallucinations. But when it comes to whether or not anxiety can cause blindness, the answer is no. There is currently no evidence that anxiety causes true blindness, as in the inability to see.

Q.   Facing some issues with near vision, will you go blind?

    Presbyopia affects near vision (reading vision) and may have other side effects such as headaches or difficulty seeing in low light. Presbyopia can interfere with your vision and your daily routine, but it will not cause blindness. However, there are other age-related eye conditions and some that can cause permanent loss of vision if left untreated – that is why it is very important to have a comprehensive annual eye exam after the age of 40.

Q.   What are the primary causes of Corneal Blindness?

    If you’re experiencing vision issues or signs of blindness are visible due to disease of the cornea, it’s termed as corneal blindness. It’s the 4th most common cause of blindness all over the world after cataract, glaucoma, and other age-related macular degenerations. Some of the most prominent factors that lead to corneal blindness include – Infective Keratitis, Trachoma, Leprosy, Vitamin A deficiency, Onchocerciasis, etc.

Q.   What all things you must consider to lower your chances of sudden blindness?

    To lower your chances of experiencing a vision loss or sudden blindness, you can take the following steps:

    • Avoid smoking to minimize the chance of developing diabetic retinopathy

    • Focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes spinach or kale

    • Exercise regularly to avoid physical boredom, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and reduce the risk of developing diseases that can trigger eye-related issues

    • Keep a tab on your blood pressure as high BP can increase your risk for glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy

    • Wear anti-glare shades to safeguard your eyes from harmful UV rays

Q.   How can Glaucoma impact my vision?

    In Glaucoma, your optic nerve gets damaged and leads to a permanent vision loss. The damage happens when the internal fluid pressure of the eye increases too much resulting in damage to the nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optic nerve. Since optic nerve fibers carry visual information, their damage affects the quality of information sent to the brain further leading to a vision loss. If glaucoma is detected at an early age, it can be controlled with little or no further vision loss. However, if you leave it untreated, first the peripheral vision and then central vision gets affected causing blindness.

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