Blindness and visual impairment are massive problems in the US and worldwide. They impair the lives of individuals, often leaving them depressed and isolated, and they damage local economies by forcing people out of the workplace, causing them to require personal care in situations where they would otherwise be independent. Eye care technology is advancing fast, however, and recent changes are making a big difference to what people facing these problems can expect.
The most common eye problems, especially as people get older, are short sightedness and long sightedness. The symptoms of both can be addressed using glasses or contact lenses, but increasingly, people are turning to specialists such as Lasik Dallas for laser surgery. A simple outpatient procedure can deliver high quality vision in a very short time by reshaping the lens. The effect is lasting and liberates patients from having to use eyewear.
By the age of 75, almost 50% of Americans have cataracts, often suffering from severely limited vision as a result. The good news is that this is getting easier and easier to treat. Traditional surgery is still the most cost-effective option, but laser-assisted techniques are catching up fast and can offer a cleaner way to remove all the problem material from the eye. Where it proves impossible to do a perfect job, light-adjustable intraocular lenses can be used to provide results that are significantly better than they used to be and can really improve quality of life.
Another serious problem that can kick in with age is macular degeneration, where blood vessels at the back of the eye deteriorate, either starving cells of fuel or leaking fluid that interferes with vision. Several new treatments are currently being developed to tackle this. Laser surgery is effective in some cases and anti-angiogenic drugs can be injected into the eye to reduce the risk of problem blood vessels developing.
Equality in sight
Some people worry that medical advances of this sort will further disadvantage the poor by creating a society in which even the most basic physical abilities are distributed unevenly. In an effort to avoid this and to make sure that the ophthalmic revolution benefits as many people as possible, organizations such as Sightsavers are providing donor-funded surgeries to people in need in the world’s poorest areas, empowering whole communities in the process.
Challenges for the future
All of these developments are worth celebrating, but they don’t mean that suddenly everyone will be able to see. There are other kinds of eye damage, such as retinal scarring, which are much harder to treat. One thing we can be sure of is that the industry will continue to try and find solutions that will give everybody the option of perfect vision. In the meantime, however, making adjustments to let visually impaired people live fuller lives despite their difficulties can help to make society more equal, right here at home.