Eye problems often hide in plain sight, damaging your delicate visual system before you notice any symptoms. Regular eye exams can help your eye doctor spot common eye conditions and treat them before you lose vision. Here are some of the problems they look for—and the therapies that relieve them.
Spotting Eye Problems Early https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/5678x3798%2B21%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F7a%2F75%2F0cf77cf349e58581e09d735286a4%2Fimage-getty-532577333.jpg
Nearsighted, farsighted, or both, these vision-blurring disorders affect more Americans than any other eye problem. They occur when the shape of the eye interferes with the focus of light on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Heredity plays a major role in these vision problems. The loss of focus that comes with aging—presbyopia—also falls into this category. Glasses, contacts, or laser surgery could improve vision for 11 million people nationwide.
Over time, cells in your macula—a small, critical area of your retina responsible for sharp vision—can break down, causing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Blurriness and dark spots may appear in the center of your vision. In one type of AMD, called wet AMD, new blood vessels grow under the macula. This makes straight lines appear wavy. Supplements, medications, or laser treatment can slow AMD’s progress and preserve your remaining sight.
Also called “lazy eye,” amblyopia is the most common vision problem in children. Amblyopia is a healthy eye that cannot see. Communication problems between the brain and the eyes reduce vision in just one eye. This can occur because of the eye’s position or because one eye has a more severe refractive error than the other. Patches or eye drops can temporarily weaken the strong eye, restoring balanced vision. Because of how the visual system develops, amblyopia should be treated during childhood.
A normal eye continually produces and leaks out a small amount of fluid each day. For reasons doctors don’t understand, most people with glaucoma develop a blockage in this drainage system. Pressure builds up in the eye, damaging the optic nerve that carries signals between the retina and brain. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. Complete eye exams can catch it early and eye drops or other treatments protect your sight.
Your retinas contain many tiny blood vessels. If your blood sugar stays high over time, these vessels swell and weaken, interfering with your vision. You might not notice this at first—that’s why everyone with diabetes should have a complete eye exam every year. As retinopathy develops, you might see spots, flashing lights, or lose part or all of your vision.