Blindness happens gradually in most people, so it never catches you by surprise.
But you might be diagnosed with a slowly worsening condition such as cataracts or macular degeneration.
What would you do? What changes will you need to plan for? What would your life be like?
Understand Your Condition
The first step is to understand the condition that is causing your eyesight to deteriorate. It might be treatable.
Your eye specialist will explain what is happening and its causes. He or she will go through the treatment options that are available and whether surgery can reverse the damage that has already occurred. You can find more details on websites like webMD.com, but if you have not yet seen a specialist you should be wary about self-diagnosis.
Being designated as blind does not mean that you will live in a black worldwithout light. Blindness refers to any condition where you have less than 10% vision in your better eye, even with corrective glasses.
Glaucoma affects the optic nerve that carries signals from the retina to the brain’s optical processing center. It is caused by an increase in pressure inside the eye.
The damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible. Glaucoma patients often have no symptoms, but if left untreated it can cause total blindness within a few years. If you have a family history of glaucoma, it is essential to have a thorough eye examination every two years.
Glaucoma can be treated with medications and eyedrops. Surgical interventions aimed at preventing the buildup of pressure in the eye are possible if a patient is not responding to medication.
Type II diabetes is increasingly prevalent in affluent countries such as the USA and the UK because it is a frequent result of obesity. Diabetes is not curable, so managing its symptoms is essential to keep your eyesight from deteriorating.
High blood sugar levels can damage tiny capillaries in the retina at the back of each eye, which is why it is important to have regular blood sugar checks, especially if you are overweight. These simple urine or blood tests allow any diabetes to be detected at an early stage, and before it can cause too much damage.
Cataracts are often part of the natural aging process, though some people are born with them. Cataracts might also be caused by diabetes. Parts of the lens in the eye become cloudy, preventing light passing through to the retina. The image the retina sends to your brain will be blurred.
Cataracts might never cause significant vision loss, but if they do then surgical replacement of the lens is a simple operation.
The cornea is the scratch-resistant surface at the front of your eye. It can become opaque or scratched in various ways, including disease and industrial accidents.
Corneal replacement surgery is the only solution possible, and it is a simple operation. The TejKohli Cornea Institute does much research in this area and funds an eye bank, as well as corneal replacement surgery.
Positivity is the Key
Life goes on. You aren’t going to die from glaucoma or cataracts, any more than you will from arthritis in your knees or hips.
You may have been putting off having a hearing aid. Do it now, because your hearing is going to increase in importance as your sight deteriorates.
You will want to retain your independence, but you are going to need help to do so. Contact the AFB, RNIB or your national organization for the blind. Training will make the difference between having an independent life and needing to live in an institution.
Adapting to Reality
You cannot be untidy if you cannot see where you have put things. Reform your tidiness habits now. Everything must always be in its place, or you will need someone else to help you to find it. And you don’t want to be less than 100% independent.
Walking is possible, as long as you have a white stick or a guide dog. Without either one, you will need a sighted friend to guide you.
There are alternatives to driving your own car. Self-driving cars will mean that even those who are registered as blind will be able to avail of personal transport. Meanwhile, taxis and public transport are possible, though you will need a sighted companion until you are familiar with your journey.
Employment is a problem area, especially if you are going to change jobs. Convincing a potential employer that you have the skills they need is difficult because many will not see past your obvious disability. Your previous employer knows how valuable you are might be able to keep you in the same job, but with a few changes to accommodate your vision loss. If that is not possible, they may be able to offer you a different role.
You might be able to work remotely using your home office. Remote working saves your employer money and removes the daily commute from your day. Everyone’s a winner.
If your work is computer based, there are adaptive technologies that will allow you to continue. Text to speech converters are commonplace, though they will not handle images. Screen to Braille converters exist, if you learn Braille.
Self-employment is another option. As a freelance writer or blogger, your clients might not even know you are blind. You can write about any subject where you are an expert, whether it is from your sighted life or your new blind condition.
Working as a freelancer is not an easy option because you will need to gradually establish your reputation before you can increase your rates. Until that happens you will be competing with people who live in low-cost countries who need much lower incomes to survive.
The Outlook Is Good
Technology is enabling blind people to live independent and full lives. Adaptive computer technology can mitigate the disabling effect of your loss of sight and to earn a living.
You will be able to live on your own, to travel alone and to fulfill your mission in life.