No, there’s no cure for blindness currently. But treatments can help restore some vision loss for certain people, depending on the cause and progression of their vision loss.
Millions of people in the United States live with vision loss and are considered blind. Blindness can sometimes be cured. But whether or not you can regain even some of your sight after vision loss depends largely on the cause of your impairment.
Laser therapies, vision correction surgeries, genetic engineering, and stem cell therapies all hold promise for the treatment of a variety of vision problems. However, not all causes of blindness can be cured or even treated to help restore vision through laser treatment, correction surgery, genetic engineering, or stem cell therapy.
This article will review some of the most common causes of blindness that can be cured and what treatments could offer for people experiencing complete vision loss.
The top five causes of blindness are:
- age-related macular degeneration
- diabetic retinopathy
- uncorrected refractive problems
Many of these conditions develop due to normal aging, like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.
But lifestyle choices and chronic conditions can also play a part in developing vision loss, such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.
For most of these conditions, laser therapy or surgery can offer some relief or even reverse vision loss. In some cases, these treatments may just help to prevent additional disease progression or vision loss.
The only condition on this list for which there really is no effective treatment — and no cure — is macular degeneration. Some forms of macular degeneration can be slowed if treatment begins early enough, but the effects of this disease can’t be stopped or reversed completely.
You can’t prevent every form of blindness.
In some cases, vision loss happens as a result of the natural aging process, or you may be born with vision impairment due to genetic mutations.
However, there are ways to protect your vision. The World Health Organization estimates that about
You can protect your eye health by doing things like:
- quitting smoking, if you smoke
- having regular eye examinations performed
- keeping your blood sugar levels within a healthy range
- eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- using protective eyewear
- protecting your eyes from ultraviolet radiation and sunlight
- knowing your family history of eye conditions or vision loss
There are several types of congenital blindness and other diseases that are present at birth and result in immediate or early blindness.
Good prenatal care can help prevent some forms of congenital blindness, but many are the result of genetically programmed disorders that can’t be avoided.
In terms of cures, there are new gene therapies that have been designed to treat some of these conditions. One example is a specific form of retinal dystrophy caused by a mutation in the RPE65 gene. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a treatment in 2017 called Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec-rzyl) that delivers a replacement of the mutated gene directly to retinal tissues.
If you have a family history of congenital blindness, or conditions that can lead to childhood blindness, your healthcare team may be able to provide screenings that can give you an idea of how likely you may be to pass these conditions on to your children.
At this time, there’s no way to restore complete vision loss.
Researchers are optimistic about a number of new therapies, though. These include:
- Stem cell therapy: A therapy in which stem cells from your own body are used to heal and repair damaged cells.
- Gene therapy: Gene therapy is a promising treatment that’s currently under investigation to treat the causes of vision loss and even restore sight. In 2020,
researchersused gene therapy to restore vision in mice, but the use of these therapies in humans is still fairly new and undergoing testing
- The implantation of certain types of cells: For example, retinal cells to help restore vision.
- Bionic eyes: Still in development, these are prosthetic eyes implanted and programmed to relay messages to the brain.
While many of these ideas show promise, many of these therapies are still in various stages of clinical trials or regulatory approval and are not yet available.
There’s no current cure for blindness. But treatments can offer help for some people, depending on the cause and progression of their vision loss. New treatments in various phases of development also offer hope, including gene and stem cell therapies.
For many causes of blindness, prevention is still the best option. You can protect your eyesight by wearing protective eyewear, making healthy lifestyle choices, and undergoing regular eye exams. This can be especially important if you live with a chronic condition, such as diabetes, that can increase your risk of vision loss.