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Most people in the world experience some kind of eye condition at some point in life, such as nearsightedness, glaucoma, or macular degeneration. There are many eye conditions that are common, especially as you get older. (Learn More)
Protecting your eyes helps to keep them healthy. If you work in hazardous conditions, have hobbies like welding or woodworking, or just go out in the sun a lot, you can take steps to minimize damage. (Learn More) Getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet is one of the better ways to maintain good eye health as you get older. (Learn More)
Most importantly, get your eyes checked regularly so your eye doctor can diagnose any potential conditions that need monitoring or treatment. (Learn More)
Managing Eye Issues
Your vision is one of the ways you enjoy the world around you. However, most people are predisposed to some type of eye condition, whether it begins in childhood or sets in later in life.
By middle age, about 4.2 million American adults are considered legally blind, meaning they have 20/200 vision (compared to 20/20, which is considered perfectly clear), or they have low vision, meaning they have less than 20/40 vision in their better-seeing eye. Most causes of vision loss are common and related to aging, but there are other conditions that are hereditary, congenital, or trauma-induced that are not related to simply getting older.
Understanding these conditions is important, but learning how to manage your eye health and reduce the risk of eye problems will help you maintain the best possible visual acuity for as long as possible.
We’ve outlined some of the most common eye conditions that you might be diagnosed with, their symptoms, and how they are managed. We’ll also cover how to protect your vision, from everyday precautions and dietary tips to long-term management.
The Most Common Eye Conditions
Although there are several conditions that can affect the eyes, there are a few that are quite common and have recognizable symptoms and simple treatment plans. These conditions are managed first and foremost with routine eye exams, so your optometrist or ophthalmologist can follow the progression of your condition and make sure your treatment plan manages symptoms.
- Refractive errors: This group of eye conditions are the most common in the world, with nearsightedness (myopia) being the most common eye problem among all age groups. Other refractive errors include hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (farsightedness due to aging), and astigmatism.Glasses and contact lenses are the main ways that people treat refractive errors. Increasingly, people with these conditions seek LASIK or other laser eye surgeries to adjust the shape of their corneas and decrease their refractive error.
- Cataracts: Clouding, dimming, or blurring of vision as you get older may be caused by cataracts, which are damaged proteins in the lens of your eye that build up over time. They lead to white or yellow spots that cause blindness or dark streaks that grow worse over time.Around 17 percent of American adults ages 40 and older have at least one cataract. By age 80, about half of American adults have undergone cataract surgery to remove the damaged lens and restore some eyesight.Because these spots of damaged proteins build up slowly over several years, regular eye exams give you a better chance of detecting cataracts before you lose vision.
- Macular degeneration: Often called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), this condition is associated with vision blurring and the loss of central vision. AMD impacts the macula, which is the central part of the retina, the organ in the eye responsible for capturing images and transmitting those signals through the optic nerve to the brain.There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Wet AMD involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels in and around the macula, which then leak blood and cause damage. Dry AMD occurs as the macula thins over time, which blurs and then dims central vision.
- Diabetic retinopathy: This is damage to the retina caused by underlying diabetes, which can impact the health of your blood vessels everywhere in your body, including in your eyes. There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy (DR).
- Mild nonproliferative retinopathy, or microaneurysms around the retina
- Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy, or blockages in some of the blood vessels
- Severe nonproliferative retinopathy, or enough vessel blockages that blood flow to the retina is severely restricted and new blood vessels cannot grow
- Proliferative retinopathy, when loss of vision becomes severe and new blood vessels cannot form
DR affects both eyes at the same time. The risk of this condition can be reduced by controlling your blood sugar through diet, exercise, and medication with your doctor’s oversight.
- Glaucoma: Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This damage can lead to tunnel vision, vision loss, and eventual blindness. Glaucoma is not considered one disease; rather, it is a range of conditions that are related to optic nerve damage, typically associated with high fluid pressure in the eye, but not exclusively.Some people develop glaucoma without having detectible high fluid pressure. Glaucoma can be caused by trauma to the eye, underlying conditions that cause the pressure, heredity, or other reasons.The condition is treated with medicated eye drops or some types of surgery. It is detectible early through regular eye exams. If you notice tunnel vision or spots of vision loss without an eye exam, you may have advanced glaucoma.
- Amblyopia and strabismus: These conditions involve differences in muscle strength in the eyes. Amblyopia is typically called lazy eye, and it is diagnosed when one eye has poorer vision than the other. This is common in young children, and it can be fixed by training the weaker eye to connect with the brain through eye patches or exercises.Strabismus is a problem with the position of the two eyes related to each other, with the eyes either crossed or turned out. The cause is unknown, and the condition tends to appear in young children. Like amblyopia, strabismus can be treated with exercises.
At an eye exam, your eye doctor will conduct tests, such as using the Snellen eye chart to understand your visual acuity or pressure tests to determine the fluid pressure in your eyes. They may dilate your pupils and shine a light into your eyes to see the entire structure and check for abnormalities. This helps them assess your overall eye health. They may then recommend further tests if they suspect there are early stages of an eye condition.
How to Protect Your Eyes
Although many eye conditions are related to factors out of your control, like your family history or your age, there are some things you can do to keep your eyes healthy for longer. Here are some recommendations for managing your long-term eye health:
- If you work with hazardous chemicals or materials, on a construction site, or with welding tools, be sure to wear appropriate eye protection.
- Wear eye protection while playing sports, even recreationally.
- If you use power tools, chemicals, or welding equipment at home, use eye safety gear like goggles.
- Wear sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet light, specifically UVA and UVB, which can lead to vision loss and even cancer.
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, as underlying conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes can lead to vision loss.
- Eat enough fruits and vegetables because vitamins and minerals help to maintain good eyesight.
- Take regular breaks from your computer screen, tablet, and phone to reduce eye strain.
- Many people are spending more time on electronic devices than ever before, so consider getting tinted computer glasses to filter blue light. Be sure to take breaks to look outside or at something far away.
- Make sure your lighting is appropriate, neither too bright nor too dim, and diffuse it enough that you do not need to squint or strain your eyes to see.
- Quit smoking, as smoking cigarettes is directly related to eye diseases.
- Keep contact lenses clean by regularly removing and cleaning them, disposing of them when it is time, and getting prescription updates for new ones every year or two.
While there are simple steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy, there are also a lot of myths circulating about how you can keep your eyes in good shape. Wrong information means you might delay treatment or avoid appropriate precautions, so it is important to know fact from fiction.
Here are some myths about eye health:
MYTHSome people believe that if you “strengthen” your eyes, you can reduce refractive errors like nearsightedness. This is not true, as these conditions are related to the shape of your cornea, which adjusts over time. It is not because of “weak eyes.”
Reading in dim light worsens your vision.Eye strain, including from dim light, can cause headaches or eye strain. It will not directly cause your eyes to get worse.
Carrots can dramatically improve your eye health.Carrots contain a vitamin called beta carotene, or vitamin A, which is related to good vision. However, a wide range of vitamins and minerals from all kinds of fruits and vegetables is important for healthy eyes, so you need to focus on more than just carrots.
The Best Foods to Keep Your Vision Healthy
The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS) highlighted several vitamins and minerals, and specific foods featuring these, that can help keep your vision stable and healthy for as long as possible. The American Optometric Association (AOA) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) base their recommendations on AREDS and AREDS-2.
Here are the best foods for healthy vision:
- Fish like salmon and tuna, which contain omega-3 fatty acids
- Nuts and legumes like walnuts, lentils, cashews, and peanuts, which contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E
- Seeds like chia, hemp, and flax, which are also rich in omega-3s and vitamin E
- Citrus fruit like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, which are high in vitamins E and C
- Leafy greens like spinach or kale, which contain vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin
- Carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, which are rich in beta carotene
- Beef, which is high in zinc
- Eggs, which contain a lot of zinc, vitamins C and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin
It is also especially important to stay hydrated, so drink enough water throughout the day, especially if you live in a warmer climate.
During the consultation, we will ask you about your eye health history and your medications, and perform some tests. You will then be examined by the surgeon who will discuss your treatment options. Your personal Patient Counselor will help you throughout the process.
Your Counselor can review payment options and schedule you for surgery and related appointments, such as pre- and post-operative exams. Prior to your procedure you will have a dilated eye exam, and you should discontinue wearing your contact lenses and begin taking eye drops as instructed.
Plan to be at the center for two to three hours the day of your procedure. ICL eye surgery is a fairly brief outpatient procedure. Your surgeon dilates your eyes, and gives you a local anesthetic to numb the area. A tiny incision is made, and the clear lens is slipped between your iris and your eye’s natural lens. The day of your procedure should be a day of rest.
Your Patient Counselor will give you detailed post-operative instructions and eye drop regimen for your recovery. After ICL surgery, you’ll need several follow-ups with your eye doctor. Visual recovery is rapid, and you can expect noticeable improvement within a day or two. Most patients are generally able to return to their normal activities within two or three days following their procedure.
Regular Eye Exams Are the Cornerstone of Eye Health
When you get regular eye exams, you keep up with any changes in your prescription. And your eye doctor can perform some tests to determine if other changes are impacting your vision, like high fluid pressure or changes to your retina. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can often see these changes before you experience any vision loss, so they can follow the condition’s progress and help you manage a treatment plan.
If you have an optometrist or ophthalmologist, they can also work with your physician to understand any underlying conditions you have, including diabetes or heart disease, which can impact your vision if the disease changes. Changes in your vision can indicate that you need to adjust your overall treatment plan, not just your vision treatment plan.
You may not know you have symptoms of some conditions until they impact your vision. Working with both your physician and an eye doctor can help you understand your genetics and family history, and how these might impact your eye health.
Most importantly, you can ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist for recommendations for glasses, sunglasses, contact lenses, and other eye health solutions.
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Common Eye Disorders and Diseases. (June 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Refractive Errors. (August 2020). National Eye Institute (NEI).
10 Tips for Good Eye Health. (2020). Better Health Channel.
Five Truths About Protecting Your Eyes. Harvard Medical School.
Top 10 Foods for Healthy Eyes. (March 2018). Medical News Today.