Causes of unilateral vision loss are mostly preventable
Hundreds of thousands of Australians have vision impairment and this can have a profound effect on a person’s life. A significant proportion of this, though an aspect that isn’t often focused on, is those who have unilateral vision impairment – that is, they are blind or have low vision in one eye but not the other. People with unilateral vision loss are more likely to be involved in car crashes, have a fall, and report lower physical and mental health outcomes compared with the general population.
In this Australian study, the researchers wanted to determine how prevalent unilateral vision impairment was and what the major causes of it were. Study candidates were identified from census data and recruited from a variety of geographical areas to ensure they reflected the diversity of the Australian population. The group contained both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Examiners, including optometrists then questioned the study participants about their eye health, medical history and socio-economic status. Each person also undertook a standard eye test. In all, 1738 Indigenous and 3098 non-Indigenous people were included in the study.
In both groups, the leading cause of unilateral vision loss was “uncorrected refractive error” – meaning common eyesight conditions (like short-sightedness or astigmatism) which weren’t treated over time and eventually led to vision loss. Cataract was also a significant cause of vision loss, while diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration were additional causes.
What’s significant about these results is that many of the causes of unilateral loss of vision are preventable – including cataract and uncorrected refractive error. The study’s authors suggest that while loss of vision in one eye is less devastating than vision loss in both, those with unilateral vision loss still have poorer health outcomes than the general population and deserve more attention from national eye health care programs. Boosting the provision of eye-testing and glasses to correct vision, as well as cataract services, could go some way to decreasing the number of Australians affected by this form of vision loss in future, they say.
Last Reviewed: 16/08/2018
© Norman Swan Medical Communications.
Foreman et al. (2018). Prevalence and Causes of Unilateral Vision Impairment and Unilateral Blindness in Australia. JAMA Ophthalmology doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.6457.
Retinopathy in diabetes
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. People with retinopathy have damaged blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eyes).
Damp, gas stoves and asthma
Household contributors to asthma often go unnoticed, but damp and gas cookers are two to be aware of.
Video: Vision loss
Vision loss, sometimes called vision impairment, can occur for many reasons. In some cases, it can be as simple as needing glasses or contact lenses, but in other cases it can be serious and irreversible.
Diabetes in Indigenous Australians
Find out why Indigenous Australians are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes than non-Indigenous Australians, and what can be done.
Glaucoma: what is it?
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed.