Common Vision Problems
Farsightedness, or hyperopia, as it is medically termed, is a vision condition in which distant objects are usually seen clearly, but close ones do not come into proper focus. Farsightedness occurs if your eyeball is too short or the cornea has too little curvature, so light entering your eye is not focused correctly. Common signs of farsightedness include difficulty in concentrating and maintaining a clear focus on near objects, eye strain, fatigue and/or headaches after close work, aching or burning eyes, irritability or nervousness after sustained concentration.
Nearsightedness, or myopia, as it is medically termed, is a vision condition in which near objects are seen clearly, but distant objects do not come into proper focus. Nearsightedness occurs if your eyeball is too long or the cornea has too much curvature, so the light entering your eye is not focused correctly. A sign of nearsightedness is difficulty seeing distant objects like a movie or TV screen or chalkboard.
Astigmatism is a vision condition that occurs when the front surface of your eye, the cornea, is slightly irregular in shape. This irregular shape prevents light from focusing properly on the back of your eye, the retina. As a result, your vision may be blurred at all distances. People with severe astigmatism will usually have blurred or distorted vision, while those with mild astigmatism may experience headaches, eye strain, fatigue or blurred vision at certain distances. Most people have some degree of astigmatism.
Presbyopia is a vision condition in which the crystalline lens of your eye loses its flexibility, which makes it difficult for you to focus on close objects. Presbyopia may seem to occur suddenly, but the actual loss of flexibility takes place over a number of years. Presbyopia usually becomes noticeable in the early to mid-40s. Presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process of the eye. It is not a disease, and it cannot be prevented. Some signs of presbyopia include the tendency to hold reading materials at arm’s length, blurred vision at normal reading distance and eye fatigue along with headaches when doing close work.
Abrasions occur when the surface of the eye is damaged when it is scraped or rubbed by an object which comes in contact with the eye. Abrasions can be caused by many different things, and can range from minor scratches, caused by a fingernail, for example, to more extensive damage caused by a large or sharp object hitting the eye. Treatment of abrasions depends on the severity of the injury.
Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is the loss or lack of development of central vision in one eye that is unrelated to any eye health problem and is not correctable with lenses. It can result from a failure to use both eyes together. Lazy eye is often associated with crossed-eyes or a large difference in the degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness between the two eyes. It usually develops before the age of 6, and it does not affect side vision. Symptoms may include noticeably favoring one eye or a tendency to bump into objects on one side. Symptoms are not always obvious.
Blepharitis is a chronic or long-term inflammation of the eyelids and eyelashes. It affects people of all ages. Among the most common causes of blepharitis are poor eyelid hygiene; excessive oil produced by the glands in the eyelid; a bacterial infection (often staphylococcal); or an allergic reaction.
Seborrheic blepharitis is often associated with dandruff of the scalp or skin conditions like acne. It can appear as greasy flakes or scales around the base of the eyelashes and a mild redness of the eyelid. It may also result in a roughness of the normally smooth tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid.
Ulcerative blepharitis is less common, but more serious. It is characterized by matted, hard crusts around the eyelashes, which when removed, leave small sores that ooze or bleed. There may also be a loss of eyelashes, distortion of the front edges of the eyelids and chronic tearing. In severe cases, the cornea, the transparent front covering of the eyeball, may also become inflamed.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. The lens of the eye is made mostly of water and protein. Clouding of the lens occurs due to changes in the proteins and lens fibers. Age-related cataracts tend to form gradually.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent layer that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. The three main types of conjunctivitis are infectious, allergic and chemical. The infectious type, commonly called “pink eye,” is caused by a contagious virus or bacteria. Your body’s allergies to pollen, cosmetics, animals or fabrics often bring on allergic conjunctivitis. And, irritants like air pollution, noxious fumes and chlorine in swimming pools may produce the chemical form. Common symptoms of conjunctivitis are red watery eyes, inflamed inner eyelids, blurred vision, a scratchy feeling in the eyes and, sometimes, a puslike or watery discharge.
Diabetes is a disease that interferes with the body’s ability to use and store sugar and can cause many health problems. One, called diabetic retinopathy, can weaken and cause changes in the small blood vessels that nourish your eye’s retina, the delicate, light sensitive lining of the back of the eye. These blood vessels may begin to leak, swell or develop brush-like branches. The early stages of diabetic retinopathy may cause blurred vision, or they may produce no visual symptoms at all. As the disease progresses, you may notice a cloudiness of vision, blind spots or floaters. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, which is one reason why it is important to have your eyes examined annually.
Diplopia, also known as double vision, has many different causes. It can occur when a person’s eyes are not aligned normally, or it can occur as a result of a head injury, diabetes, or Graves Disease, among other causes.
Dry Eye Syndrome
The tears your eyes produce are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision. Dry eye means that your eyes do not produce enough tears or that you produce tears that do not have the proper chemical composition. Often, dry eye is part of the natural aging process. It can also be caused by blinking or eyelid problems, medications like antihistamines, oral contraceptives and antidepressants, a dry climate, wind and dust, general health problems like arthritis or Sjogren’s syndrome and chemical or thermal burns to your eyes. If you have dry eye, your symptoms may include irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes, a burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes and blurred vision. Excessive dry eyes may damage eye tissue, scar your cornea (the front covering of your eyes) and impair vision and make contact lens wear difficult.
A foreign body is simply an object which gets into the eye. In some cases a foreign body may actually become embedded in the eye, requiring removal by an experienced professional. A foreign body in the eye may result in an abrasion or need for other treatment.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal pressure in your eyes increases enough to damage the nerve fibers in your optic nerve and cause vision loss. The increase in pressure happens when the passages that normally allow fluid in your eyes to drain become clogged or blocked. The reasons that the passages become blocked are not known. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. It most often occurs in people over age 40. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans, and those who are very nearsighted or diabetic are at a higher risk of developing the disease. The most common type of glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly, without symptoms. A rarer type occurs rapidly and its symptoms may include blurred vision, loss of side vision, seeing colored rings around lights and pain or redness in the eyes. Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored.IritisInflammation of the iris, which is the colored part of the eye surrounding the pupil.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in America. It results from changes to the macula, a portion of the retina that is responsible for clear, sharp vision, and is located at the back of the eye. Most people with macular degeneration have the dry form, for which there is no known treatment. The less common wet form may respond to laser procedures, if diagnosed and treated early. Some common symptoms are a gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly, distorted vision, a gradual loss of color vision and a dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision. If you experience any of these, contact your doctor of optometry immediately for a comprehensive examination. Central vision that is lost to macular degeneration cannot be restored. However, low vision devices such as telescopic and microscopic lenses can be prescribed to make the most out of remaining vision. Recent research indicates certain vitamins and minerals may help prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration. Ask your doctor of optometry about these. After age 60, an annual, comprehensive eye examination is important to maintain eye health.Retinal DetachmentThe layers of the retina separate and can pull away from the back of the eye. This condition can cause vision changes that appear as flashes of light, spots, things having a “wavy” look to them, or an abrupt decline of vision. Untreated, it can result in severe vision loss.
Spots (often called floaters) are small, semi-transparent or cloudy specks or particles within the vitreous, which is the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eyes. They appear as specks of various shapes and sizes, threadlike strands or cobwebs. Because they are within your eyes, they move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly. Spots are often caused by small flecks of protein or other matter trapped during the formation of your eyes before birth. They can also result from deterioration of the vitreous fluid, due to aging; or from certain eye diseases or injuries. Most spots are not harmful and rarely limit vision. But, spots can be indications of more serious problems.
** item definitions from the American Optometric Association website