Do you wear glasses? If so, then you join millions of other people in the nation and the world who have a refractive error, the most common eye problem. Other common vision problems include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Read on to learn about each of these eye conditions.
The most common causes of vision loss are refractive errors. According to the ”National Eye Institute, refractive errors “occur when the shape of the eye prevents light from focusing directly on the retina.” The four types of refractive errors are nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia. Myopia, or nearsightedness means only distant objects are blurry, while hyperopia, or farsightedness, means only close-up objects are blurry. Astigmatism occurs when light is not distributed evenly over the retina. Finally, presbyopia is age-related and occurs when close-up objects become hard to focus on. The first two are the main causes for prescription eyeglasses among children and young adults. The last, presbyopia, is the most common reason for prescription eyeglasses as a person ages. According to the Department of Health, one in every three people aged forty and older have presbyopia. All refractive errors are genetically passed from parent to child.
In the center of the retina is a part of the eye called the macula. If you cannot focus on objects in your central vision but can focus on objects in your peripheral vision, you likely have macular degeneration, which is most commonly age-related, though there is a form that is non-age-related. There are two types of macular degeneration, the dry type and the wet type. In the dry form, light-sensitive cells in the macular start breaking down, slowly destroying a person’s central vision. This form reacts well to treatment in the early stages and, if treated early enough, can be prevented from continuing to advanced macular degeneration. The wet form, however, occurs when tiny blood vessels form on the macula and then erupt because of their delicate nature. If caught soon enough, treatment can slow the progress of the wet form of macular degeneration. which causes
Cataracts occur when the natural lens, found behind the iris, is clouded over. This clouding over is the main cause of blindness in the world. Starting out small and having little effect on your vision, the cataract can quickly spread across the entirety of the lens to cause a white fog to form in the vision. Cataracts can also make light from the sun or lights brighter or extremely glaring. You should think about surgery when the cataracts seriously impair your vision and affect your daily living. Surgery for cataracts can be quite simple. It involves removing the cataract lens and replacing it with a clear, plastic lens. Surgery is commonly very effective and can return your vision to 20/20.
Glaucoma can come in two forms, chronic and acute. Chronic glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because it can come without symptoms until it is too late. This eye condition slowly takes your vision by building up the pressure in the eye, putting pressure on the optic nerve and damaging it. However, symptoms of acute glaucoma, which can cause pressure to build up very fast, include blurred vision, extreme eye pain, and nausea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, visit your nearest emergency room immediately so treatment can be given to prevent permanent vision loss. Treatment for glaucoma can vary, but includes surgery to insert drainage tubes, lasers, or medicine. The principle cause of blindness from glaucoma is non-compliance with a strict eye drop regime because you don’t notice a difference between with eye drops and without due to lack of symptoms. If eye drops for glaucoma are irritative or inconvenient, don’t stop using the eye drops without first consulting your ophthalmologist.
Diabetes can cause vision loss because higher blood sugar levels can block blood flow to parts of the body, including the eyes. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include leakage of blood vessels in the back of the eye, which causes a yellowish tint to the eyes, fluctuating vision, floaters and spots in your vision, double vision, eye pain, and cataracts. To prevent diabetic retinopathy, keep blood sugar levels within a normal range, maintain your blood pressure within a healthy range, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, and follow your doctor’s instructions exactly. Regular eye exams are also extremely important to prevent damage from diabetic retinopathy.
Preventing vision loss can be as simple as exercising and eating healthy or as difficult as getting surgery to remove a cataract or insert drainage tubes for glaucoma. Sometimes, that vision loss is unpreventable, such as with refractive errors, but most of the time there are activities you can do to prevent and treatments that can be given to slow or reverse the effects of an eye condition. Overall, it is important to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle to keep away eye trouble. However, if you have symptoms of any of the five conditions discusses in this article, be sure to visit your ophthalmologist, who can help you maintain healthy, happy eyes.