New research has revealed the world is going blind at an alarmingly fast pace.
There are currently 36 million blind people around the world, but that number is set to reach 115 million by 2050.
Optometrists say the numbers are shocking considering many of the conditions that lead to blindness, such as glaucoma, are preventable.
“They call glaucoma the sneaky thief of sight because it’s painless,” resident optometrist at Optometry Australia Luke Arundel told Starts at 60.
“It can affect one eye at a time, but because we walk around with both eyes open we often won’t notice it until it’s too late.”
Similarly, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness for over-55s in developing countries, can damage vision beyond repair if not properly treated in the early stages.
AMD affects the macular – or centre – of the eye and causes blurring of central vision, blind spots and distortion or warping of straight lines.
Arundel says that along with ageing, lifestyle factors can also have a profound effect on eyesight.
“Some of symptoms are changes due to ageing, but there are also things that accelerate ageing changes, things like UV damage, smoking and diet,” he says.
“It’s never too late to protect from UV, which also accelerates cataract formation and ageing at the macular.
“We know smoking is bad for pretty much everything, but many people don’t realise it also increases your risk of blindness.
“And diet is very important. A diet rich in antioxidants — not just carrots!”
Arundel says the best way to avoid blindness is through regular eye checks.
“Go out there and get an eye test. It’s painless and it’s simple.”
Both glaucoma and ADM can be treated with daily drops or injections that slow the process of the conditions and help prolong eyesight for longer.
Arundel says both conditions are easy to detect and treat, but it takes patients being vigilant enough to visit their optometrist regularly.