Common Eye Problems Explained

eyelidsAge, genes and general health can all have an effect on our eyes and besides vision impairment, many of us will be affected by eye conditions. Some of the most eye problems common include:

Presbyopia

Presbyopia (literal translation: “ageing eye”) is the loss of ability to see small print or close objects clearly. The condition is age-related, taking place slowly over a lifetime with most affected noticing changes after the age of 40. Whereas young eyes are soft and flexible, at this age the lens of the eye becomes more rigid meaning it cannot change shape and focus on varying distances so easily.

Nearly everyone develops Presbyopia but the problem is easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

Cataracts

Cataracts is a condition where the (normally clear) lens of the eye becomes cloudy, preventing light from passing through to the back of the eye. As light cannot reach the retina then images cannot be processed, causing blurry or distorted vision. Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes, usually forming slowly and causing no pain.

The most common cause of cataracts is age but poor diet, smoking and excessive exposure to sunlight have been linked to an increased risk. While many cataracts remain small and don’t cause any vision problems, those that become thick will often require an updated prescription and in worst cases, surgical removal.

Glaucoma

eyelashesGlaucoma is caused by damage or deterioration of the optic nerve. The condition is usually caused by abnormal eye pressure but can also originate from injury to the eye, infections, blocked blood vessels or eye inflammation. As most people do not experience any early symptoms, it’s important to have the eyes checked regularly by an optician. If the condition isn’t treated, it can cause the eyesight to dramatically worsen and eventually lead to blindness.

Glaucoma is related to age but you are more at risk if you have a family history of the condition or you’re very short-sighted. The condition is not curable but can be managed effectively with eye drops and in severe cases, surgery.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome occurs when the tear glands produce poor or too few tears. This leads to uncomfortable, read and swollen eyes which can burn, itch and in some cases cause blurred vision. Causes include a hot climate, the side effects of medicines, chronic diseases, hormonal changes and age. The condition is also more common in women than men.

Dry Eye syndrome is not usually serious and can be treated with eye drops, specialised eyewear or in severe cases, surgery. Sometimes, it can be avoided if you keep the eyelids clean and protected, use computers correctly to avoid eye strain, eat a healthy diet and use a humidifier to moisten the air.

Conjunctivitis

eyeConjunctivitis is a swelling and soreness of the thin layer that covers the front of the eye (the conjunctiva). The very common condition is usually caused by infection, an allergic reaction or the eyes’ contact with irritable substances such as shampoo or a loose eyelash. Symptoms include watering of the eyes, itchiness and sometimes a sticky film on the eyelashes.

Anybody of any age can be affected by conjunctivitis. The symptoms usually clear up within weeks but in more severe cases, the condition can be treated with antibiotic eye drops. You can avoid conjunctivitis by washing the hands regularly and prevent it from spreading by avoiding sharing pillows or towels. Any sticky film or crusting on the eye or eyelashes can be cleaned away with cotton wool and water.

Age-related Macular Degeneration

AMD is the primary cause of sight-loss during old age. The condition occurs when the cells of the macula (the central part of the retina responsible for central vision) deteriorate and stop working. Vision becomes increasingly blurred, leading to difficulty reading, difficulty recognising people’s faces and less vibrant colours.

AMD usually affects both eyes and there are two main types of the condition. Dry AMD is the most common and least severe form, causing a gradual loss of vision. Wet AMD is rare but much more severe and without treatment, can cause vision to deteriorate within days. There is no cure for either form of AMD but both can be managed with magnifying lenses for reading and medication.

The risk of developing AMD can be reduced if you eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, stop smoking, drink alcohol responsibility, maintain a healthy weight and protect the eyes from UV light.