When it comes to signs of eye disease, Americans are blind to the facts. A recent survey showed that while nearly half (47%) of Americans worry more about going blind than losing their memory or their ability to walk or hear, almost 30% of those surveyed admitted to not getting their eyes checked. The signs and symptoms of some of the most common eye diseases are explained below.
Farsightedness (hyperopia) is difficulty focusing on objects that are close. It is very common and the incidence increases with age. It is caused by an abnormally flat cornea that does not allow light to sharply focus on the retina. Glasses, contact lenses, or surgery may be used to correct hyperopia. Nearsightedness (myopia) causes people to be unable to see distant objects, though they can see nearby objects clearly. It is caused by the cornea having too much curvature, resulting in problems with focusing on the retina. Myopia is extremely common and easily corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that develop due to elevated intra-ocular pressure (IOP) within the eye. The increased pressure affects the optic nerve and may cause vision loss. Glaucoma is classified either as open-angle (the more common form that is usually painless) or angle-closure glaucoma (which often occurs suddenly and is associated with pain and redness of the eye).
A cataract is a painless cloudy lens in the eye that causes blurry vision. It progresses slowly as we age (most people who live long enough will have some cataract-like changes to their cornea). Other causes of cataracts include diabetes, trauma, some medications, and excessive UV light exposure.
Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease with onset at any age, usually after age 60, that progressively destroys the macula, the central portion of the retina that helps with focus. It rarely causes total blindness as only the center of vision is affected.
Conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, is redness and inflammation of the clear tissue covering the eye and the inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva). It is commonly caused by bacterial or viral infections but may also be due to irritants (chemicals, pollutants, or allergens). Most cases of infectious conjunctivitis are viral and do not need treatment with antibiotics. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic drops or ointments prescribed by your doctor. A crusty discharge may make it difficult to open the eyelids. If this happens a warm, wet compress may be applied to the eyes to gently remove the crusting.
Severe eye allergies may cause damage to the eye that may threaten eyesight. Allergies can cause chronic inflammation that may permanently damage the cornea. Causes of eye allergies are usually due to seasonal allergies, sensitivities to cosmetics or medications, or dust. Over-the-counter eye drops that contain antihistamines or decongestants are usually helpful. Consult a doctor if OTC remedies do not work, or if you experience pain, discharge, or extreme eye redness.
A corneal ulcer is a small crater (ulcer) on the front part of the eye, usually resulting from infection. Bacteria, viruses, or fungus can cause a corneal ulcer. People who wear contact lenses are at higher risk for corneal ulcers because infectious agents may get trapped behind a lens. Symptoms of a corneal ulcer include pain, intense redness, feeling as if the eye is scratched or something is in the eye, sensitivity to light, and blurry vision.
A sty (also spelled stye) is an infection of the oil gland at the base of an eyelash. It appears as a red, raised pimple on the edge of the eyelid. Symptoms of a sty are pain, tenderness, redness, and swelling with a small pustule. The eyeball itself may feel irritated or as if something is scratching it due to the swelling of the eyelid.
Floaters are caused by aging changes in the vitreous jelly of the eye. They are a common consequence of aging. If you develop multiple floaters, or floaters associated with pain, get checked by your ophthalmologist. In general floaters do not cause blindness and are mostly harmless. There is no definitive treatment for floaters, as most will fade or become less noticeable over time.
Take care of your eyes to protect your vision. Always use eye protection to avoid injuries and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays. People over 40 should have their eyes checked every two years and people over 60 should have their eyes checked every year.Be proactive in your eye health. If you notice any symptoms of the disorders discussed in this slide show, see your ophthalmologist.
by: Ammara Siddique