If we told you that someone was blind, what would your first assumption about them be? It would probably be that they have no sight, right? Blind people on TV, movies, and in commercials are always portrayed this way.
I mean, the story of Ray Charles is incredible. A blind pianist? Many people can’t even play the instrument with full vision.
However, no matter how incredible a story about a blind person may be, stories are often exaggerated. In fact, nobody experiences blindness the same way. We’re constantly bombarded with stereotypes surrounding blindness that some of the facts have gotten lost.
Today, we want to take a closer look at the eyes of a blind person. Let’s explore the realities of blindness and how blind doesn’t always mean no vision.
Strictly speaking, when someone is legally blind, they cannot see at all. When someone is blind, they are recognized by the state as someone having no vision.
Now the stereotypes make sense. We have a poor definition of blindness, which gives us a false sense of what it really is. The truth is blindness goes by many names that you’ve heard before right here on our blog.
Blindness is often used as a relative term to describe people with low vision or severe vision impairments. As you may know, low vision and vision impairments don’t always mean total blindness.
People living with different degrees of blindness will be able to perceive anything from nothing to shapes and light.
While some babies are born with blindness, this is not the case for many. The majority of the time, blindness is caused by another eye disease or eye infection. The condition can sometimes be tough to pin down because so many different factors come into play.
When a baby is born blind, often it is the result of the eyes not forming properly. Researchers aren’t too sure what causes the eyes not to form the way that they should. Just like no one is too sure why some babies are born with longer eye balls or shorter ones. Both of these deformities can cause myopia and hyperopia.
The most widely accepted theory to explain why some babies are born blind is genetics. If blindness caused by eye deformities runs in the family, there is a chance of it being passed on to an unborn child. However, a number of complications during pregnancy can also cause blindness in babies.
In some very rare cases, blindness in newborns can be caused by congenital cataracts. Cataracts are typically associated with aging eyes. However, in babies, cataracts are often caused by diseases, illnesses, or disorders experienced by the mother during pregnancy.
Age-Related Eye Diseases
The leading causes of blindness in the world are due to age-related eye diseases. This includes cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Cataracts is a disease that cause the lens of the eye to become clouded. When this happens and goes untreated it will affect a person’s central vision. Often the disease will affect both eyes. In some rare cases, one eye may be affected while the other may not.
Glaucoma is another disease that can cause blindness. Glaucoma is caused by the intraocular pressure. When the fluid pressure in the eye is too high, it begins to press down on the optic nerve. This can cause severe and irreversible damage to a person’s vision.
Macular degeneration is a disease that can realistically occur at any age. It mostly affects adults over the age of 60. In fact, as we get older, we will most likely all experience macular degeneration. The disease can be delayed through adopting a proper eye-healthy diet. However, it cannot be prevented entirely.
The disease is exactly what it sounds like – the degeneration of the macula. The macula is found at the center of the retina. This disease is irreversible and there is no known cure for it.
Not all blindness is caused by age-related diseases. Another leader in blindness-causing conditions is diabetic retinopathy. This disease can affect anyone with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy causes the blood vessels in the retina to grow abnormally and leak fluid into the eye. In the early stages of the disease, the leaking will cause black spots to appear in a person’s central vision. Over time, as the disease progresses, it will lead to total blindness.
Finally, the last cause on our list is injury. Eye injuries, depending on how serious they are, can cause different degrees of blindness. A blunt hit to the eye may detach a retina and cause your vision to be severely impaired for the rest of your life.
However, it isn’t only eye injuries that can cause blindness. Head injuries, such as a concussion, can also cause blindness. It can happen when the part of the brain that deals with vision isn’t able to properly function and process images being sent to it from the optic nerve.
What Do Blind People See?
This is a tough question to answer. Ideally, if you know a person who is blind, you would ask them. Every blind person will give you a different answer. Blindness is a very personalized affliction. The following are only generalizations about what a blind person would see.
Someone born blind, for example, will likely have no vision at all. All they will be able to perceive is darkness. That being said, some people born with blindness claim to be able to see the light from the sun and other very strong lights.
Those who unfortunately find themselves in a late stage of diabetic retinopathy will experience a type of blindness similar to those born with blindness. The fluid leaking into the eye will cause complete blindness.
For blindness that is caused by age-related diseases, a person may be able to perceive much more. Blindness caused by age-related diseases is considered “low vision”. Someone with low vision may not be able to make out details, but they can see contrasts between dark and light. Colors may also be perceived, but only if something contrasts them.
Blindness caused by eye injuries will really depend on the individual. While some only experience mild vision impairment, some may find themselves completely blind.
Blindness is not the difference between being able to see and not see. It isn’t so black and white. There are different degrees of blindness based on its causes. Everyone experiences it differently. The important part is that we support those living with blindness and continue to research ways to restore lost vision.