Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Blindness is the inability to see anything, even light. If you’re partially blind, you have limited vision. For example, you may have blurry vision or the inability to distinguish the shapes of objects. Complete blindness means that you can’t see at all and are in total darkness. Legal blindness refers to vision that’s highly compromised. What a person with healthy eyes can see from 200 feet away a legally blind person can see only from 20 feet away.
Seek medical attention right away if you suddenly lose the ability to see. Have someone bring you to the emergency room for treatment. Don’t wait for your vision to return. Depending on the cause of your blindness, immediate treatment may increase your chances of restoring your vision. Treatment may involve surgery or medication.
If you’re completely blind, you can see nothing. If you’re partially blind, you might experience the following symptoms:
Your child’s visual system begins to develop in the womb, but it won’t be fully formed until about 2 years of age. By 6 to 8 weeks of age, your baby should be able to fix their gaze on an object and follow its movement. By 4 months of age, their eyes should be properly aligned and not turned inward or outward.
The symptoms of visual impairment in young children can include:
The following eye diseases and conditions can cause blindness:
Blindness is a potential complication if you have diabetes or have a stroke. Birth defects, eye injuries, and complications from eye surgery are other common causes of blindness.
The following conditions can impair vision or cause blindness in infants:
The following categories of people are at risk of blindness:
A thorough eye exam by an optometrist will help to determine the cause of your blindness or partial loss of vision. Your eye doctor will administer a series of tests that measure the clarity of your vision, the function of your eye muscles, and how your pupils react to light. They’ll examine the general health of your eyes using a slit lamp, which is a low-power microscope paired with a high-intensity light.
A pediatrician will screen your baby for eye problems shortly after birth. At 6 months of age, you should have an eye doctor or pediatrician check your child again for visual acuity, focus, and eye alignment. The doctor will look at your baby’s eye structures and see whether they can follow a light or colorful object with their eyes.
Your child should be able to pay attention to visual stimuli by 6 to 8 weeks of age. If your child doesn’t react to light shining in their eyes or focus on colorful objects by 2 to 3 months of age, have their eyes examined right away. You should have their eyes examined if you notice crossed eyes or any other symptoms of impaired vision.
In some cases of vision impairment, one or more of the following may help to restore your vision:
If you experience partial blindness that can’t be corrected, your doctor will provide guidance on how to function with limited vision. For example, you can use a magnifying glass to read, increase the text size on your computer, and use audio clocks and audiobooks.
Complete blindness requires approaching life in a new way and learning new skills. For example, you may need to learn how to:
You may also need to have handrails installed in your bathroom.
The long-term outlook for restoring vision and slowing vision loss is better when treatment is preventive and sought immediately. Cataracts can be treated effectively with surgery and don’t necessarily result in blindness. Early diagnosis and treatment are also important in cases of glaucoma and macular degeneration to help slow down or stop your vision loss.
To detect eye diseases and help prevent vision loss, get regular eye examinations. If you’re diagnosed with certain eye conditions, such as glaucoma, treatment with medication can help prevent blindness.
Have your child’s eyes examined at 6 months of age, 3 years of age, and every two years between the ages of 6 and 18 years old to help prevent vision loss. If you notice symptoms of vision loss between routine visits, make an appointment with their eye doctor immediately.
Written by: Chitra Badii and Marijane Leonard
Medically reviewed on: Mar 09, 2016: Mark R. Laflamme, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.