Common Eye Conditions and Diseases

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) – ARMD is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision needed for “straight-ahead” activities such as reading, sewing, and driving. ARMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. ARMD causes no pain.

ARMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. It gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly. Despite the limited vision, ARMD does not cause complete blindness since the side (peripheral) vision is still available.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) – The brain and the eye work together to produce vision. Light enters the eye and is changed into nerve signals that travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Amblyopia is the medical term used when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. The eye itself looks normal, but it is not being used normally because the brain is favoring the other eye. This condition is also sometimes called lazy eye.

Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood. The condition affects approximately 2 to 3 out of every 100 children. Unless it is successfully treated in early childhood, amblyopia usually persists into adulthood, and is the most common cause of monocular (one eye) visual impairment among children and young and middle-aged adults.

Astigmatism – Astigmatism is a common type of refractive error. It is a condition in which the eye does not focus light evenly onto the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

Astigmatism occurs when light is bent differently depending on where it strikes the cornea and passes through the eyeball. The cornea of a normal eye is curved like a basketball, with the same degree of roundness in all areas. An eye with astigmatism has a cornea that is curved more like a football, with some areas that are steeper or more rounded than others. This can cause images to appear blurry and stretched out.

Cataract – A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. A cataract can occur in either or both eyes. It cannot spread from one eye to the other.

Diabetic Eye Disease (Diabetic Retinopathy) – Diabetic retinopathy, which causes changes to the blood vessels of the retina, is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.

If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.

Dry Eye – Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. Inflammation of the surface of the eye may occur along with dry eye. If left untreated, this condition can lead to pain, ulcers, scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. However, permanent loss of vision from dry eye is uncommon.

Dry eye can make it more difficult to perform some activities, such as using a computer or reading for an extended period of time, and it can decrease tolerance for dry environments, such as the air inside an airplane. Other names for dry eye include dry eye syndrome, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), dysfunctional tear syndrome, lacrimal keratoconjunctivitis, evaporative tear deficiency, aqueous tear deficiency, and LASIK-induced neurotrophic epitheliopathy (LNE).

Floaters – Floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly. They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when your eyes stop moving.

Most people have floaters and learn to ignore them; they are usually not noticed until they become numerous or more prominent. Floaters can become apparent when looking at something bright, such as white paper or a blue sky.

Glaucoma – Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. With early detection and treatment, you can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss due to glaucoma.

The only known effective treatment for preserving the optic nerve and preventing further damage due to glaucoma, is to lower the pressure inside the eye with medication or surgery.

Glaucoma is fairly common among the population over the age of 35, affecting 2 of every 100 people. The number of people affected by glaucoma is expected to rise dramatically as our population of baby-boomers ages. Risk factors for developing glaucoma include: a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, a blood relative with the disease, and being of African-American descent.

Because the early stages of glaucoma have no obvious symptoms, the only way to detect it is through an eye examination. Intraocular pressure and optic nerve health are assessed during a comprehensive exam. Since there is no prevention for glaucoma, yearly examination, particularly in those over the age of 35, is highly recommended.

Hyperopia – Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is a common type of refractive error where distant objects may be seen more clearly than objects that are near. However, people experience hyperopia differently. Some people may not notice any problems with their vision, especially when they are young. For people with significant hyperopia, vision can be blurry for objects at any distance, near or far.

Myopia – Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is a common type of refractive error where close objects appear clearly, but distant objects appear blurry.

Myopia develops in eyes that focus images in front of the retina instead of on the retina, which results in blurred vision. This occurs when the eyeball becomes too long and prevents incoming light from focusing directly on the retina. It may also be caused by an abnormal shape of the cornea or lens.

Presbyopia – Presbyopia is a common type of vision disorder that occurs as you age. It is often referred to as the aging eye condition. Presbyopia results in the inability to focus up close.

Presbyopia happens naturally in people as they age. Due to a hardening of the lens of the eye, the eye is not able to focus light directly on the retina, and instead focuses it behind the retina. Aging also affects muscle fibers around the lens making it harder for the eye to focus on up close objects.

When you are younger, the lens of the eye is soft and flexible, allowing the tiny muscles inside the eye to easily reshape the lens to focus on close and distant objects.

Retinal Detachment – The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside back of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina is lifted or pulled from its normal position, it can become detached from the back of the eye. If not promptly treated, retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.

In some cases there may be small areas of the retina that are torn. These areas, called retinal tears or retinal breaks, can lead to retinal detachment.

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