Common Eye Conditions
September 27, 2019
BY JENNIFER KESSLER, OD
Here is a list of common eye conditions taken from the American Optometric Association site.
Astigmatism is a common vision condition that causes blurred vision at all distances. It occurs when the cornea is irregularly shaped (similar to a football), causing the light that enters the eye to not focus properly onto the retina. It frequently occurs with other vision conditions like myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). It can be treated by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses and by refractive surgery procedures that reshape the cornea such as LASIK and PRK.
A cataract is defined as a cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending on its size and location, it can interfere with normal vision. It usually affects people over the age of 55, but can occasionally be present in infants and young children. When a cataract is present, the light that enters the eye is no longer focused properly onto the retina, resulting in blurred vision.
Signs and symptoms of cataracts include blurred or hazy vision, reduced intensity of colors, increased sensitivity to glare (especially at night), and a change in the refractive error or prescription of the eye. Most cataracts are due to age related changes in the lens of the eye. Factors that may contribute to the development of cataracts include diabetes mellitus, certain medications (corticosteroids), UV light exposure, smoking, alcohol consumption, and nutritional deficiency (low levels of antioxidants).
Treatment is based on the level of visual impairment the cataract is causing. In minor cases, simply updating the eyeglasses prescription and taking advantage of anti-glare coatings for the lenses may provide temporary visual improvement. If the patient is unable to function and perform their daily activities, then surgery may be needed. Cataract surgery involves removing the lens of the eye and replacing it with an artificial lens.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or swelling of the conjunctiva, the front part of the eye. Often referred to as “pink eye”, this condition is a very common in children and may be highly contagious. There are multiple causes, which include infection (viral or bacterial), allergic reactions (to air irritants such as pollen and smoke, cosmetics etc), or chemical exposure (chlorine). Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea are less common causes of conjunctivitis.
Symptoms include an itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes, excessive tearing, discharge from one or both eyes, swollen eyelids, pink discoloration to the whites of the eyes, and an increased sensitivity to light.
Any signs of conjunctivitis should be evaluated by an eye care provider so appropriate diagnosis and treatment can be initiated.
Dry Eye Disease
Dry eye disease is a chronic condition that results from a group of ocular surface disorders. Some symptoms include dry or gritty/sandy feeling eyes, intermittent blurred vision that is alleviated by blinking, excessive tearing, and tired eyes at the end of the day.
Treatment can be prescribed to help keep your eyes healthy and comfortable and to prevent your vision from being affected. The initial steps in the management and treatment of dry eye disease involve improving the quantity and quality of the tears and treating any contributing eyelid or ocular surface inflammation.
Adding tears, by using specific types of over the counter artificial tear solutions, is often enough to manage mild cases of the condition. Conserving tears by blocking the tear ducts, where the tears drain from the eye, can be an effective method to keep the natural tears of the eyes on the surface longer. This is done by inserting removable silicone plugs or dissolvable collagen plugs into the drainage system opening. There are also several types of prescription eye drops that can help increase the amount of tears being produced. If inflammation is a contributing factor, the doctor may prescribe eye drops or ointments, warm compresses with lid massage, or eyelid cleaning solutions to help decrease the inflammation around the surface of the eyes.
Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to progressive damage to the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. This may initially result in the loss of peripheral or side vision and will progress to central vision loss if left untreated. It most often occurs in people over the age of 60, and those with a family history of the disease or of African American or Hispanic descent are at higher risk.
The condition develops slowly and usually without symptoms, meaning that people with the condition are not aware they have it until they have significant vision loss. If detected early, glaucoma can be controlled and further vision loss can be slowed or prevented using medications or surgery. As there is no cure for the disease, patients will need to continue treatment for life. Compliance with the usage of eye medications and follow up visits are essential for proper care of the disease, as treatment may need to be adjusted periodically.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over the age of 50. It occurs when there are changes to the macula, a small portion of the retina located on the inside of the eye, that is responsible for our central vision.
Symptoms of macular degeneration include gradual loss of the ability to see objects clearly, distortion in the shapes of objects, straight lines appearing wavy or crooked, a reduction in color vision, or a missing area (blind spot) in the center of vision. There are two forms, dry and wet.
Most people with the condition have the dry form; the tissue in the macula gradually becomes thin and stops working properly. There is no cure for dry AMD and any loss of central vision cannot be restored.
The wet form of macular degeneration occurs when fluids leak from newly formed blood vessels under the macula, blurring the central vision. Vision loss can be rapid and severe. Wet AMD can be treated with intraocular injections of medications that stop the formation of these new, weaker blood vessels.
Presbyopia is a normal visual condition in which the shape of the crystalline lens of your eye changes and becomes less flexible. These changes make it difficult to focus on objects up close. Symptoms usually develop in the early to mid-40’s, but actually the process begins as early as childhood. Signs include holding reading materials further away and eye fatigue and headaches with prolonged near work. It can be treated with the prescription of reading glasses, multifocal glasses, or contact lenses.