Your eyesight is one of your most valuable assets. Because maintaining the health of your eyes is so important, here are the top 10 most common issues people experience with their eyes. If any of these apply to you, please see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible before the condition gets worse.
Characterized by a cloudy, milky white lens in the eye, most cataracts are age-related and more common in people over 50, but can also develop at any age. Cataracts can be the result of injury, UV exposure, or protein deterioration over time; this is what causes the eye’s lens to get cloudy. If left untreated, cataracts can ultimately cause severe vision loss.
Treatment: Fortunately, cataracts are a common eye problem that can be treated through surgery, during which the surgeon removes the lens of your eye and replaces it with an artificial lens. Whether surgery is needed depends on the degree of vision loss and whether it affects your quality of life and ability to function.
Normally, the cornea (the clear outer lens of the eye) has a dome shape, like a ball. Sometimes, however, the collagen which holds the cornea in place becomes weak, causing the cornea to become cone shaped. This condition is called keratoconus, which can cause serious loss of vision if not treated early and quickly. Left untreated, many people will need a cornea transplant.
Treatment: Treatment usually starts with eyeglasses. Contact lenses, usually rigid gas permeable ones, may be recommended to strengthen the cornea and improve vision. In addition, cornea collagen cross-linking is often effective to help prevent progression, as well as intacs (implants placed under the surface of the cornea to reduce the cone shape and improve vision).
Diabetic retinopathy occurs as a result of prolonged high blood sugar associated with types 1 and 2 diabetes and can cause blindness if left untreated. Too much blood sugar can change the blood vessels in the back of the eye, thus preventing the retina from receiving the proper amount of nutrients it needs to maintain vision. Anyone with diabetes type 1 or type 2 is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. However, the type of diabetes a person has, how often the blood glucose fluctuates, how well the glucose level is kept under control, and how long a person has had diabetes all affect his/her risk.
Treatment: In most cases, laser surgery can prevent significant vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy. A procedure called laser photocoagulation can seal or destroy growing or leaking blood vessels in the retina.
This leading cause of blindness is characterized by damage to the macula, the area of the retina that perceives light. Risk factors include: age, smoking, female gender and family history. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for macular degeneration. However, current treatments can slow the progression of the disease considerably.
Treatment: Age-related macular degeneration treatments may prevent severe vision loss or slow the progression of the disease. Some of the available treatment options are:
- Anti-angiogenic drugs. Injected into the eye, these medications block the development of new blood vessels and leakage from the abnormal vessels within the eye.
- Laser therapy. High-energy laser light can sometimes be used to destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels.
- Photodynamic laser therapy. A two-step treatment in which a light-sensitive drug is used to damage the abnormal blood vessels. A medication is injected into the bloodstream to be absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels in the eye. A cold laser is then shone into the eye to activate the drug, damaging the abnormal blood vessels.
- Vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper can decrease the risk of vision loss in certain patients with intermediate to advanced age-related macular degeneration.
According to the National Eye Institute, refractive errors are the most common cause of vision problems. Refraction in the eye occurs when light passes through the cornea and the lens. Errors can occur as a result of the length of the eyeball, changes in the shape of the cornea or natural aging of the lens. Nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are known as refractive errors.
Treatment: The most common forms of treatment are eyeglasses, contact lenses and LASIK surgery.
Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve and worsens over time. Associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye, glaucoma tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life. The increased pressure can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues, glaucoma will cause permanent loss of vision. Because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from this increased pressure, it is important to visit your eye doctor regularly so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term visual loss occurs.
Treatment: Once detected, glaucoma can be treated with either surgery, lasers (by SLT or ML methods) or eye drops.
Presbyopia is the loss of the ability to clearly see close objects or small print. Being part of the natural aging process of the eye, presbyopia is often confused with farsightedness but the two are not the same. Presbyopia occurs when the natural lens in the eye loses flexibility, while farsightedness occurs due to irregularities in cornea shape, lens shape, or overall eyeball shape, which causes light rays to bend incorrectly once they have entered the eye.
Treatment: Treatment options include wearing corrective lenses, undergoing refractive surgery or getting lens implants.
Common among people over 50, floaters are tiny spots or specks that float across the field of vision. Formed by a deposit of protein drifting about in the vitreous (the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the middle of the eye), floaters seem to drift in front of the eye but do not block vision. Usually benign, floaters sometimes can indicate a more serious eye problem such as retinal detachment, especially if they are accompanied by light flashes.
Treatment: In many cases, eye floaters will fade or disappear on their own. If they don’t fade, sometimes your brain will learn to ignore them. As a result, your vision will begin to adapt.
If eye floaters begin to impair your vision, there are two types of possible treatments available: surgery to remove the floater (vitrectomy) or laser treatment (vitreolysis).
The condition known as “dry eyes” happens when tear glands cannot make enough tears or produce poor quality tears. Having dry eyes can be uncomfortable, causing itching, burning and in rare cases, some loss of vision.
Treatment: Your eye doctor may suggest using a humidifier in your house, or special eye drops that simulate real tears.
If your eyes produce too many tears, this might indicate that your eyes are particularly sensitive to light, wind or temperature changes. Protecting your eyes by shielding them or wearing sunglasses can sometimes solve the problem. Sometimes tearing might also mean that you have a more serious problem, such as an eye infection or a blocked tear duct. Your eye doctor can treat or correct both of these conditions.
In conclusion, all these common eye problems can be cured or at least slowed if detected Early by the ophthalmologist. Even if you don’t have noticeable changes in your vision, it’s important to have regularly scheduled eye exams since some vision problems have no early warning signs.