Losing Sight – Baby Boomers and Blindness Part I 

Today, nearly 7-million Americans over age 65 have a severe visual impairment. Experts predict that number will rise significantly over the next decade along with the country’s aging population.Tonight, we begin a special series on “Losing Sight – Baby Boomers and Blindness.”We’ve sat down with doctors to talk about some of the most common eye diseases. There are four common age-related diseases that affect the eyes. Tonight we’ll highligh them and find out who’s at risk.They help you view the world, yet millions of Americans have vision problems that are leaving them in the dark. The number of blind persons in the US will increase by 70% by 2020. The reason? The baby boom generation – folks 45 to 64 years old. The first wave of 78-million baby boomers turns 65 next year.According to the national eye institute, there are four common age-related eye diseases, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma, all of which are leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in the US.Optometrist Mark Varnum has been in practice for more than 20 years.”the eye is the only place in the body you can see a nerve and a blood vessel without actually cutting the skin so you can get a tremendous amount of information from the inside of the eye and overall health of the body.”Half of all Americans with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy.”diabetes besides being a problem storing sugar causes blood vessels to leak. That leakage causes damage and the damage can eventually lead to new blood vessel growth, which causes large amounts of hemorrhaging and the eye can go blind from that.”Recent studies show the disease can be slowed, or even prevented, by better control of blood sugar levels.One of the most common diseases Dr. Varnum sees is age-related macular degeneration.Not much is known about the underlying cause, but possible signs of macular degeneration may include blurry areas on a printed page, straight lines appearing wavy or dark spots in your center of vision.”it’s damage to the retina itself. The retina being the film of the camera. Specifically the area called the macular, which is the small area takes up about 1% of the back of the eye, but it’s responsible for all your straight ahead vision, all of your color vision. So in that area although it’s the size of a head of a pin if that gets affected then it can be devastating to the vision and patients can be legally blind from that.”76-year old Joe La Magna is legally blind in his right eye and his left is getting weaker from macular degeneration.”I was seated on the porch and I noticed floaters in my left eye. Floaters are a bunch of lines, black lines. They look like spider webs.”La Magna sight has since been restored to that eye through treatment.”I have absolutely no problem driving now, working is no problem.”Many people say that if they were to become blind or have severe vision loss, their top concerns would be not being able to read, properly identify medication, and drive.But three-quarters of Americans say the biggest concern would be losing the ability to live independently. “Losing that independence. Fear, yes there is a fear, but you can’t give up.”