At some point in our lives, most of us will experience some form of vision loss. Educating yourself on the most common conditions will help you recognize signs and symptoms. Acting early on the onset of some symptoms is crucial for reversible conditions. Educate yourself on these six most common eye problems to prolong your good eye health: refractive errors, cataracts, keratoconus, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
Familiarity with the symptoms of common eye conditions can help you prevent a minor infection or abnormality from becoming a major health issue. There are many eye problems out there that are both minor and serious problems. Refractive errors of the eyes are the most common eye problems. You know these refractive errors by the terms “nearsightedness”, “farsightedness” and “astigmatism”. 42% of people have nearsightedness, and the numbers grow each year. Nearsightedness is when objects appear clearly up close, but blurry when far away.
Farsightedness is the exact opposite: objects farther away appear clearly and objects up close are blurry. Fewer people have farsightedness than nearsightedness. Both of these conditions happen when there is a problem with light focusing correctly on your retina—or the part of the eye that helps interpret images. Light will focus before it hits your retina with nearsightedness, and light will focus behind the retina with farsightedness instead of right on the retina tissue. With astigmatism, you get blurry vision because light focuses at two different places, due to a rugby-shaped eyeball. All of these eye problems develop over time and can be corrected with glasses, contacts, and surgery.
Eye problems such as refractive errors are fairly easy to correct. However, cataracts are not so easy. The lens of your eye sits behind your iris (the colored part of your eye) and helps focus light onto your retina. A cataract acts like a frosted glass coating that scatters light, causing blurring and lack of clarity. Cataracts are painless and gradually worsen. Patients get double vision and lights look fuzzy. Cataracts usually happen with age, but surgery and medication can stop the progression.
Keratoconus is a distorted vision that is caused when your normally round eyeball starts to change into more of a cone shape. It’s an eye disease that causes this distortion and a thinner cornea. Patients develop astigmatism or nearsightedness. Enzymes in your eyes can cause this condition, so make sure you take vitamins that will keep your eyes healthy. Medications, contact lenses and surgery can also help this condition.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in patients and it’s irreversible. It affects more than 10 million Americans alone. The retina helps you to see. The retina’s central area (the macula) is tasked with focusing central vision. It controls our ability to read, drive and recognize colors and faces (along with many other abilities). Macular degeneration is the loss of your central field of vision. Your retina tissue has many light-sensitive cells. The macula is the part of the retina with the most light-sensitive cells. This part of your eye stops working or is damaged by blue light over time, making it so those light-sensitive cells don’t work.
A gray spot in the center of your vision will continually increase without treatment. You can have age-related macular degeneration that is genetic. The onset us around age 55 or older. Or, you can develop macular with too much blue or ultraviolet-light exposure. Always wear protective sunglasses when outside and use computer glasses (that block blue light rays) when using electronic or smart devices.
Did you know that certain diseases and conditions can affect your vision? If you have diabetes (either type), make sure to be extra vigilant about watching for changes in your vision. High blood sugar levels in your body damage blood vessels, especially in your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that those blood vessels can leak, swell or even close, stopping your blood flow. This will eventually cause you to go blind.
You can keep diabetic retinopathy under control if you see your eye doctor frequently. Even though the American Optometric Association recommends seeing your eye doctor every 2 years, people with this condition should see their eye doctor 1 or more times a year. Your doctor can monitor your vision and provide the right treatment and prescriptions to save your vision.
Glaucoma is also a major eye disease that leads to irreversible blindness if left untreated. This is the term given to a group of eye problems that damage the optic nerve. Some forms of glaucoma come on suddenly and some come on overtime. This eye condition isn’t painful and often has no symptoms. 5% of people over 65 gets it. You can stop glaucoma progression if you visit the eye doctor often. They can see your delicate eye tissues changing before blurry vision or blindness progresses. Surgery, medicines and laser trabeculoplasty can all help glaucoma.
Seeing the eye doctor is vital to preventing common eye problems and stopping their progression. See your eye doctor at least every 2 years if your eyes are healthy. Come visit us every year if you already have vision problems. If it has been some time since your last eye exam, call Optical Masters today at (720) 782-2190!