9 Common Eye Problems
- Spotting Eye Problems Early
- 1. Refractive ErrorsNearsighted, 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.
- 2. Age-Related Macular DegenerationOver 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.
- 3. Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)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.
- 4. GlaucomaA 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.
- 5. Diabetic RetinopathyYour 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.
- 6. Eye AllergiesAllergies occur when the tissues in your eyes react to something in the air around you. Pollen, mold and dust often trigger this response. It makes your eyes produce a substance called histamine, which causes redness, swelling, itching, teariness and burning. Avoiding allergens—for instance, by checking pollen counts before heading outside—and using special eye drops can ease your symptoms.
- 7. CataractsLike the lens of a camera, your eye’s lens focuses your vision. Clumps of protein called cataracts can cloud your lenses, blurring the images that reach your brain. Most cataracts occur with aging. But they can also develop after eye surgery, as a result of eye injuries, or even before birth. If cataracts interfere with your daily life, you can have surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one.
- 8. Pink EyePink, itchy eyes are the hallmark sign of this common infection. More accurately called conjunctivitis, it affects the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lines your eyelid and the whites of your eyes. Viruses, bacteria, allergens and irritants, such as smog, can cause pink eye. Viral and bacterial pink eye spread quickly from person to person. Sometimes, the infection clears up over time. For severe cases caused by bacteria, you may need antibiotic eye drops.
- 9. Dry EyeWith each blink, lubricating tears spread over the surface of your eye. But for a variety of reasons, some people don’t produce enough tears or their tears evaporate too quickly. Dry eyes can also manifest as part of a larger medical condition like rheumatoid arthritis. Mild cases cause irritation and difficulty using a computer or reading. Eventually, inflammation of the eye can lead to pain, ulcers or scars on the cornea. Lubricating eye drops, medications, and changes to your lifestyle—such as avoiding contact lenses—can help.
9 Common Eye Problems