Though most people have heard the term “legally blind,” most don’t really know what it means. You may be surprised to know that legal blindness is a government standard, not a medical condition. If you’re legally blind, at risk to become legally blind, or have a family member who is legally blind, learn the definition of legal blindness, how it differs from low vision and blindness, and its causes.
If you have questions, contact All About Eyes for more information.
What Is Legal Blindness?
Legal blindness is the government’s standard for when a person is too impaired for certain activities (like driving) or when they qualify for disability benefits. The US Social Security Administration defines legal blindness as either eyesight that’s no better than 20/200 or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.
Having 20/200 vision means that a person’s eyesight is about 10 times worse than what’s considered standard for most people, which is 20/20 vision. In other words, a person with 20/200 vision would have to stand 20 feet from a sign in order to read it, when a person with normal vision could read it at 200 feet away.
People also qualify as legally blind if they have a visual field of 20 degrees or less—in other words, if they have tunnel vision. Usually, a person looking straight forward can see a full 180 degrees, allowing them to see objects to the left and right of them without moving their eyes. If someone can’t see a broad enough picture without moving his or her eyes from side to side, he or she qualifies as legally blind.
If you meet these standards without glasses or contacts, but you exceed them with your eye correction, then you don’t qualify as legally blind. In order to count, you can’t exceed these standards with your best eye while using your glasses.
How Does Legal Blindness Compare?
Legal blindness is not the same as total blindness or low vision (also called visual impairment). A person with total blindness cannot see anything—shapes or light—with either eye. On the other hand, a person with low vision may or may not be legally blind but has enough vision loss to interfere with his or her daily life. The general standard for low vision is visual acuity of 20/70 or worse, with corrective lenses.
Most people in the United States with vision loss are not totally blind or legally blind. Most have low vision. About 2.4 million people in the country have low vision, and about 1.3 million people are legally blind. However, even if a person isn’t legally blind or totally blind, vision loss still interferes with daily activities like reading, walking around, cooking, and driving.
What Causes Legal Blindness?
Legal blindness can have many causes. Some people are born with visual disabilities, making them legally blind from birth. However, the majority of legal blindness cases are caused by age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. All these diseases are more likely in older people, which means that the vast majority of people who are legally blind are over 40 years old.
If you’re worried that you’re at risk for becoming legally blind, talk to your eye doctor. Some causes of vision loss are preventable and treatable.
How Do People Cope With Legal Blindess?
If you’ve recently become legally blind, that doesn’t mean that your life has to stop. You face many challenges and you might feel depressed or frustrated, but you can live a fulfilling life. Legal blindness means that you qualify for government benefits like vocational training, disability benefits, low vision devices, and tax exemption programs. Additionally, organizations like the American Foundation for the Blind can offer help.
With these benefits, you can get back on your feet and re-learn how to get through your everyday life. With vision aids like magnifiers, you can still make use of the vision you have to get around independently. Additionally, many legally blind people use guide dogs to give them greater mobility—these animals aren’t just for the totally blind.
If your eye doctor has recently diagnosed you as legally blind and you need help, reach out to the American Foundation for the Blind to get started. These dedicated professionals can offer you the services and training you need to navigate your new world.
You may already know that you have vision loss. However, in order to get medical treatment or help dealing with your vision loss, reach out to an eye doctor. If you suspect you’re legally blind, you need a clinical diagnosis in order to become eligible for benefits.
All About Eyes can connect you with a doctor who understands the needs of patients with low vision. We have many locations, so search for the office closest to you to get started and call to set an appointment. We’re ready to help you understand and deal with your vision loss.
Head injuries can occur virtually anywhere, from a sporting field to a worksite. Many head injuries result in minor bumps and bruises with few other symptoms, but head injuries can cause numerous related issues.
Changes in vision are often one of the first clues that a head injury was more serious than originally assumed. Understanding how these injuries can affect vision can help you identify the symptoms of serious head injuries in yourself and those around you.
Which Head Injuries Can Affect Vision?
When you hear the phrase “head injuries,” you probably picture impact injuries that occur when the head collides with a solid object. These injury types include traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. Concussions are the most common and most mild type of TBI.
A concussion occurs when a blow to the head alters the brain’s placement in the skull. If the brain collides with the side of the skull due to the impact, this constitutes a more serious TBI.
The term TBI also applies to any injury that punctures the skull and affects the brain.
All forms of TBI can potentially have an effect on the patient’s vision. In addition to TBIs, the following other head injuries can also change vision:
- Acquired brain injury (ABI)
- Cerebrovascular accident, including stroke
- Post-traumatic cervical syndrome, which is typically related to whiplash or other spinal injury
Developments related to conditions like cerebral palsy may also change the patient’s vision acuity.
Head injuries are complex and may manifest differently from patient to patient. The effect on an individual’s vision may depend on a variety of factors, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Why Do Some Head Injuries Cause Vision Changes?
According to research performed by the Veteran’s Affairs Western Blind Rehabilitation Center, between 20 and 40 percent of individuals who experience a head injury develop a related vision problem.
A head injury may cause vision changes when it disrupts the normal function of the eyeballs themselves or of the connections between the eyes and the brain. Common vision disruptions caused by head injuries include:
- Decreased coordination in tandem with eye movements
- Inability to focus the eye lens appropriately
- Reduced automatic vision mechanisms, like visually tracking moving objects
- Reduced eye movement range
- Weakened muscles that control eye movement
The type of acuity changes a patient experiences depends on which of the listed vision disruptions occurs during or after his or her head injury.
Which Vision Symptoms Can Occur After a Head Injury?
Vision changes due to a head injury can occur immediately following the incident, gradually over a period of days or weeks after the accident, or suddenly sometime after the injury as the healing process occurs.
Because head injuries tend to cause the vision disruptions discussed in the previous section, most patients with similar injuries experience similar vision problems. These vision changes may include one or more of the following:
- Difficulty reading or comprehending visual cues
- Duplicate vision
- Generally blurred vision or blurred vision when looking between an object nearby and one far away
- Illusions where printed words and images appear to move or warp when concentrated on
- Needing to change head position in order to see or focus on an image
- Needing to cover one eye to focus properly on an image
- Persistent eye strain and eye-related headaches
- Problems with balance and perceived equilibrium, such as the room appearing to tilt
- Reduced peripheral vision, including difficulty seeing objects that are above or below the natural sightline, which may manifest as decreased physical coordination
- Total or partial vision loss that may last for a short period or persist over time
- Trouble focusing on an object, whether the object is moving or stationary
- Uncomfortable sensitivity to artificial light, natural sunlight, reflected light, or all three
Vision changes like blurriness may last for a short period of time, while other vision changes can become permanent without proper treatment from an optometrist.
When Should You See a Doctor for a Head Injury and Its Related Symptoms?
Patients should seek medical attention after a head injury if there is any possibility that a concussion or other TBI occurred. During this initial visit to an emergency room or to your primary care physician, bring up any changes to your vision that you have noticed since the incident.
You should schedule an appointment with an eye doctor for any symptoms that appear after the initial incident or reoccur sometime after the head injury itself. Corrective lenses, rehabilitation therapies, or vision surgeries may be necessary to address the problem.
If you recently experienced a head injury, whether you ran into a door frame or had a car accident, pay attention to your cognitive and vision symptoms. In addition to seeking emergency medical attention following the injury, see an eye doctor at the All About Eyes location nearest you for an evaluation of any vision changes.
Styes are not serious, but they’re uncomfortable and irritating. If you’ve experienced this small infection, you’ll know just how annoying they are. Learn more about styes, how they form, and how you can treat and prevent them.
As always, if you need help with a sty right now, you can turn to your eye doctor for help. Call your medical provider today for assistance.
What Is a Sty?
A sty is a small infected lump on your eyelid. Though most styes form on top of the eyelid, some form on the underside. If you notice a small red swollen mass in this location, a sty is the most likely answer. As a reference, most styes look like a pimple.
Though styes are generally harmless, they aren’t comfortable. Most are very tender. Depending on your sty’s size and location, you may feel it every time you blink, or you may feel it throbbing. Some people report their eyelids swelling around the sty, a feeling that something is in their eye, or that the sty causes them to tear up.
All these symptoms are very normal, and usually there’s nothing to worry about—the sty will most likely go away on its own soon enough. However, if your face begins to swell or become red beyond your eyelids to other parts of your face, or if you start experiencing changes in your vision, you should seek out medical attention right away.
How Do Styes Form?
Like pimples, styes are caused by bacteria infecting the oil glands in your skin, though in this case the infection occurs in the glands in the eyelid. Most styes are caused by staphylococcal bacteria, which is contagious—if you have a sty, don’t share a pillowcase or a washcloth with anyone until its better. Additionally, try to keep your hands away from your eyes, and wash them if you do touch your eyes to avoid spreading bacteria to others.
Usually, the infection that causes a sty begins when you introduce bacteria to the area. You may have:
- Inserted your contacts without washing your hands or disinfecting the lenses
- Used expired makeup or shared makeup
- Forgotten to wash your makeup brushes
- Rubbed your eyes with unwashed hands
- Left eye makeup on overnight
- Gotten debris in your eye, like dust, that carried bacteria with it
Though these actions don’t always cause you to form a sty, they increase your risk. You can help prevent future styes by avoiding these risks in the future. For example, you can replace your eye makeup every six months, wash your makeup brushes, and wear eye protection when you know conditions will be dusty.
How Do You Treat Styes?
Most styes heal naturally, and you don’t need to go see a doctor unless you exhibit serious symptoms like spreading swelling or vision changes. Usually, all you need to do is alleviate the symptoms until the sty heals on its own.
You can lessen your discomfort and help the style heal by trying the following:
- Avoid eye makeup and contacts until the sty is gone. Touching the area will only irritate it further and may introduce yet more bacteria.
- Apply a warm, wet compress. Try running warm water over a washcloth, then pressing it gently over your affected eye for five to 10 minutes, running more warm water over the cloth as necessary. The wet heat will feel pleasant and may encourage the sty to drain faster. Usually, doctors recommend you use this therapy about three to six times per day until the sty heals.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Though this won’t help the sty heal faster, it will make you more comfortable in the meantime.
- Avoid touching the sty. Though it may look like a pimple, trying to pop it is not a good idea. The skin around your eyes is very sensitive. Additionally, squeezing the sty may cause the bacteria to spread.
Most styes heal quickly. Usually, they swell for about three days before they rupture and drain, and they heal completely within a few days after draining. If your sty is bothering you, you should rest assured that it should be gone soon.
However, some styes need medical care. If your sty is persistent and either keeps returning or never heals, go to an eye doctor. You may need the doctor to rupture the sty by hand to help it drain, or you may need antibiotic eye drops to get rid of the bacteria causing the sty. Your doctor will know what to do to help.
If you have a sty, you can lessen your discomfort and aid your eyelid’s healing through self-care, and you can make sure to be more careful in the future. However, if you need medical attention, call your eye doctor right away.
If you think your contacts might have caused your sty, contact All About Eyes. We can help you sort through your options and learn better eye hygiene so you can avoid this problem in the future.
Childhood is often full of bumps and scrapes. For many of these injuries, a kiss and a bandage go a long way toward complete healing. However, injuries affecting the most vulnerable parts of your child’s body can be much more serious.
One of the most intimidating types of childhood injuries is a foreign object in one or both of the child’s eyes. Understanding how to deal with this common issue can help you feel calmer in the situation and prevent serious eye issues for your child.
Signs of Foreign Objects in the Eyes
In some cases, you may be able to easily see the foreign object affecting your child’s eye. However, like many childhood conditions, foreign objects can be difficult for parents to spot and for children to identify on their own.
Depending on what type of foreign object is in your child’s eye, he or she may not know what’s causing his or her discomfort. Take a look in your child’s eyes to see if there’s an object on the surface that doesn’t belong. Also check for the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision or other vision changes
- Excessive blinking
- Feeling of something being in the eye
- Redness on the surface of the eye or the skin around the eye
- Rubbing the eyes repeatedly
- Sudden irritability, especially in young, nonverbal children
- Tearing that doesn’t necessarily seem related to normal crying
- Trouble keeping the affected eye open even for short periods of time
The long-term effect of a foreign object on your child’s eyes depends on the type of object and how it’s addressed. Most dry, nontoxic foreign objects can be removed without damaging the eye. These particles can cause corneal abrasions and other injuries to the surface of the eye if left unaddressed.
Other, more hazardous foreign objects or substances can potentially cause permanent vision changes if they are not treated appropriately.
Common Foreign Objects That Threaten the Eyes
While numerous objects could potentially enter the eyes and cause discomfort, certain types of objects are more likely to cause eye injuries than others. Teach your children to exercise appropriate care with:
- Loose eyelashes
- Dried mucus, also called sleep grit
- Liquid chemicals
- Liquid beauty items, like shampoo
- Sawdust or woodchips
It may take your child some time to practice safe habits around certain potentially hazardous household items, like shampoo. When your child begins to take baths on his or her own, be sure that he or she knows to immediately flush the eye out with clean water if he or she feels like a beauty supply got in it.
Additionally, be sure that your child wears eye protection in any situation that has greater inherent risk of eye injury, such as lawn mowing or practicing carpentry.
Immediate First Aid Responses
As soon as you suspect that your child has a foreign object in his or her eye, discourage any rubbing. If your child can resist rubbing, many foreign objects can be moved without damaging the surface of the eyeball.
Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. If possible, move your child to a clean, well-lit area with water on hand, like your home’s main bathroom. Once you’re in place and your hands are clean of particles that could contribute to the issue, assess your child’s eye. You may have to use your fingers to keep the eye open.
If the object is visible and is sitting on the surface of the eye in the front, flush the eye out with cool water. You may have flush the eye multiple times to shift the object. You can either use a trickle of water from the tap or an eyedropper for this step.
If the object has moved to the corner of the eye, get a clean cloth damp. Then, use gentle motions to move the object off the eyeball and the eyelid.
Signs That Your Child Needs Medical Attention
If the object appears to have penetrated the eye at all, consider the situation a medical emergency and take your child to an emergency room immediately. To prevent further damage, place a curved covering, like a plastic cup, over your child’s eye and use medical tape to secure it.
If your child seems to be in acute pain, seek emergency medical attention rather than attempting at-home first aid measures.
If you know or suspect that the substance in your child’s eye is a chemical, call poison control and follow their instructions. If the chemical container has instructions to flush the eye, do so while you wait for emergency responders.
If your child experiences a foreign object in his or her eye, be sure to schedule a checkup with an eye doctor soon after any initial visit to a doctor or emergency room. An optometrist at the All About Eyes location nearest you can assess your child’s eyes and vision to treat any existing issues caused by the foreign object.
Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is a common childhood ailment. Unfortunately, misinformation about this condition often increases the risk of disease transmission, complicates diagnosis, and discourages patients from seeking treatment.
It’s important for adults, especially parents, to be able to distinguish between the facts and fiction of conjunctivitis to prevent the spread of common myths.
1. All Types of Pink Eye Are Contagious
One of the most common and most harmful misconceptions about pink eye is that there’s only one, highly contagious type. Pink eye actually has numerous causes, including allergies, exposure to chemical fumes, advanced dry eye, and infections.
Pink eye caused by an infection may result from a virus, usually an adenovirus or herpes virus, or from bacteria. Only bacterial pink eye is contagious. An eye doctor can determine the cause of the condition and let you know whether or not you’re contagious.
Even with bacterial pink eye, patients can usually return to school or work one day after starting antibiotic treatment.
2. Any Pinkness Points to Pink Eye
Many individuals believe that any pink or red discoloration in the eye area indicates the presence of pink eye. However, the term “pink eye” applies only to coloration changes of the eyeball itself. Redness around the eye, which may be referred to as “red eye,” is not necessarily related to pink eye.
Often, red eye results from eyeball injuries, like corneal abrasions. In certain serious cases, redness around the eye comes from an infection in the eye socket or the progression of glaucoma. If you experience both pink and red eye simultaneously or experience persistent red eye, consult with an optometrist.
3. Conjunctivitis Only Affects Children
Pink eye is particularly common among children. However, pink eye can affect anyone. The high rate of infection among children usually results from kids not taking the same precautions against the condition as adults.
To protect yourself and your children against pink eye, always wash up before handling anything that comes close to your eyes, like contact lenses. Additionally, avoid sharing eyeliner, contact lenses, and contact solution to reduce the risk of infection.
4. Crude Pranks Can Cause Pink Eye
Bacterial pink eye can occur due to exposure to a number of different bacteria, including staph. Some types of bacteria that can lead to pink eye are found naturally in the human body. For example, staph can live in the nose, so a child who picks his or her nose could unwittingly transfer the bacteria to the eye area.
These bacteria can also be found in fecal matter, and this fact has led to the myth that if someone were to release gas onto a pillowcase, a person who uses the pillowcase later will contract pink eye.
However, flatulence is primarily methane gas and does not contain bacteria. Additionally, bacteria die quickly outside the body, so unless someone laid down on the pillowcase immediately after it had been exposed to bacteria, the sleeper would be at no risk for pink eye.
5. Infection Can Happen at First Sight
One of the most persistent myths about pink eye is that an infected individual can transmit the disease with a single glance. However, no disease can be passed via eye contact, including pink eye.
This myth can also include the idea that being in a large group of people makes it easier for pink eye to spread. However, because no type of pink eye is airborne, being in a crowd does not significantly raise the risk of contracting pink eye.
6. Objects That Come in Close Contact Must Go
When you notice discoloration of your eye, your first response may be to get rid of anything that came close to the eye area, including bed linens, beauty tools, and clothing items. This drastic measure is rarely necessary.
Your eye doctor may recommend getting rid of your contact lenses and any contaminated contact solution, as well as eyeliner and mascara used while your eye was affected. He or she may also suggest that you wash the linens and clothes you’ve used recently to kill any lingering bacteria.
However, if your pink eye is caused by allergies or exposure to irritants, you may simply need to stop wearing contact lenses and eye makeup until the inflammation subsides.
7. Pink Eye Can Cause Blindness
While pink eye can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, the condition is not dangerous on its own. In fact, many cases of pink eye go away without treatment in one to two weeks.
If you experience unusual symptoms, consult with an eye health professional to determine whether the pink eye is related to or contributing to a more serious condition. These serious symptoms may include fever, rash, persistent headache, nausea, or changes in eye discharge.
If you have questions about inflammation of your or your child’s eye, see an eye doctor as soon as possible. Visit the All About Eyes location nearest you to receive a diagnosis and recommendations based on your symptoms.