Do you have an eye infection or something more serious? Select from the following common eye conditions to learn more about their symptoms & treatments.
Amblyopia (often referred to as “lazy eye”) is an eye disorder characterized by poor or indistinct vision. The disorder exists during early childhood when the “lazy eye” transmits visual images to the brain either poorly or not at all.
Causes of amblyopia range from impairment of vision as a result of alcohol poisoning to impairment caused by toxic influences, trauma, etc. The most common type of this eye disorder is strabismus ambylopia, in which vision in one eye is suppressed to avoid double vision. This can be caused by a weak muscle in one eye, in which case the brain will not accept the double vision and learns instead to suppress the vision in the weak eye in order to eliminate double vision.
Amblyopia must be detected early in order for the “lazy” eye to learn to see well. If the condition is not treated by the time a child is approximately six years old, vision in the “lazy” eye will likely not improve over time. Often times, parents notice the condition when one of the child’s eyes turns out or in.
An exam with an ophthalmologist is necessary to diagnose the condition and provide the most appropriate means of treatment. Common treatment involves putting a patch over the stronger eye to force the weaker eye to see. Special glasses may also be provided to the child to treat the condition. In some cases, surgery to the eye muscles may be required.
Astigmatism is caused by an irregular curvature of the cornea or in the shape of the eye’s lens, producing blurred vision a doubling or ghosting effect in your vision. A normal lens and cornea should be smooth and equally curved in all directions, helping light rays focus sharply onto the retina at the back of the eye. Imperfect curvature of the lens or cornea causes a refractive error, meaning light rays are not refracted properly.
An irregularly shaped cornea is called corneal astigmatism. When the lens shape is irregular, it is known as lenticular astigmatism. With either type, vision for both near and far appears blurry or distorted.
Astigmatism can cause vision problems for adults, and may affect a child’s ability to achieve in school and sports. This condition is detected during regular eye exams and can be treated with prescription lenses, or in some cases, laser eye surgery.
Farsightedness is the result of a structural defect in the eye. The hyperopic (farsighted) eye is too short, resulting in blurry distance and near vision. A person who is farsighted sees distant objects more clearly than close objects and may have trouble focusing when performing up-close tasks such as reading or sewing. These defects are often present early in life, but normal development and lengthening of the eyeball during early childhood usually corrects the condition.
Farsightedness is often noticed after age 40, when the eyes begin to lose their ability to compensate by changing the shape of the lens to focus on near objects. An age-related decline in the eyes ability to focus, called presbyopia, makes farsightedness even more apparent.
Symptoms of farsightedness include blurred vision, difficulty seeing objects up close, aching eyes, eyestrain, and headaches.
Children with farsightedness may have no symptoms, although a more severe case of farsightedness may cause headaches or discomfort in a child’s eyes. In children, difficulty or lack of interest in reading is a possible sign of farsightedness. Farsightedness can also increase the risk for crossed eyes.
Macular degeneration (also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 65. This condition occurs when the macula—the very central part of the retina that is responsible for sharp, central vision—begins to deteriorate. Advanced AMD associated with vision loss affects about 1.75 million U.S. residents. Although macular degeneration does not result in total blindness, it can cause profound visual disability.
Symptoms of macular degeneration may include, dark, blurry areas in the center of vision, diminished or changed color perception, and/or straight lines appear wavy
The “dry” form of macular degeneration is more common, and accounts for about 85 to 90 percent of AMD cases. It is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula, which are thought to be deposits or debris from deteriorating tissue. Dry macular degeneration may also be the result of a thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to atrophy, or tissue death, which may cause blind spots in the central vision.
The “wet” form of macular degeneration is less common than the dry form, but usually leads go more serious vision loss. It is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision. The abnormal blood vessels will eventually scar, leading to permanent loss of central vision.
In some cases, macular degeneration can be hereditary. If someone in your family has or had the condition you may be at higher risk for developing macular degeneration. Talk to your eye doctor about your individual risk. Other risk factors include: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and being Caucasian.
There is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, but there are treatments that may delay its progression, or improve vision. Treatments for the condition depend on the stage and form of macular degeneration. Nutritional intervention may help prevent progression from dry macular degeneration to wet macular degeneration. There are some prescription drugs that may help stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels in wet macular degeneration.
Nearsightedness is caused by a change in the shape of the eyeball, making the eyeball more oval than round. In some cases, nearsightedness may be the result of a change in the cornea or lens of the eye. The irregular shape of the eye causes light rays entering the eye to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on the retina.
Nearsightedness is most often an inherited eye condition, though in rare cases, it may be caused by another disease or eye condition. Myopia generally stabilizes in young adults.
The primary symptom of myopia is blurry vision when looking at objects in the distance. People who are nearsighted may have difficulty seeing images on a movie screen or television, or words on a blackboard. Nearsightedness can cause poor school, athletic, or work performance.
Presbyopia is farsightedness caused by a loss of elasticity of the crystalline lens of the eye. It is a normal vision impairment that comes with age, and is the reason many people require reading glasses as they get older. Presbyopia usually occurs in the early or mid-forties.
As presbyopia develops, you will find that you need to hold reading materilas at arm’s length to be able to see it clearly. Performing tasks that require near vision, such as handwriting or sewing, may cause headaches, eyestrain, or fatigue.
Prescription lenses, including reading glasses, bifocals, or single or multi-focal contact lenses can correct vision impairment caused by presbyopia. There are also surgical options available to treat the condition
A Pterygium, commonly called “surfer’s eye,” is a non-cancerous, elevated wedge-shaped growth that starts on the conjunctiva, (the white part of the eye) and can spread to the cornea. It is usually related to irritation from the sun or dryness and commonly seen in people who spend long hours in bright sunlight, especially on water, which reflects the sun’s UV rays. Prolonged exposure to dust and wind can also cause pterygium to develop.
Pterygia usually occur on the inside of the eye, closer to the nose, but can also develop on the outer side of the eye. If you have a pterygium, you can see a whitish or yellowish growth near the iris, which may progress by moving toward the pupil area.
Mild pterygium may not cause any vision symptoms or require treatment, but a larger pterygium can cause a gritty, itchy, or burning sensation, or the feeling that something is in the eye. Pterygia can also cause inflamed, red eyes, and may result in blurred vision.
Treatment of surfer’s eye depends on the size of the pterygium, and whether or not it is growing or causing symptoms. Regardless of the severity, any pterygium should be monitored to prevent scarring that could lead to vision loss. If a pterygium is small, lubricants or a mild steroid eye drop may be prescribed to reduce redness and swelling. If the pterygium invades the cornea, it may require surgical removal.
In many cases (20 to 30 percent) of pterygia grow back. Some may require an additional surgery to remove the re-growth, but some re-growths remain small enough that they do not invade the cornea.
Ptosis is a permanent drooping of the upper eyelid that can cause headaches, brow aches, or eye irritation, and can obscure vision. The condition is caused by the inability of one of the eyelid’s muscles, called the levator, to fully lift the eyelid. In some cases, ptosis exists at birth, but adults can develop ptosis after surgery, or due to another health condition such as diabetes, kidney disease, or allergies. Ptosis can also result from an eyelid tumor. In most cases, however, ptosis is the result of aging eyelid tissue and weakening muscles.
In most cases, ptosis is corrected by a brief, out-patient surgical procedure during which the levator muscle is shortened slightly so it will lift the eyelid. If ptosis obscures vision, your insurance may cover all or part of the cost of treatment.
Red eyes can be the result of a number of causes including: allergies, a bacterial or viral infection such as pink eye, a subconjunctival hemorrhage, or glaucoma or iritis (swelling of the iris). Because there are so many potential causes of red eyes, it is best to contact your eye doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.