American adults worry more about going blind. Always use eye protection to avoid injuries and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays. People over 40 should have their eyes checked every two years and people over 60 should have their eyes checked every year.
One of the most common eye problems among seniors, the development of cataracts can cause vision problems and vision loss. A cataract is a painless clouding of the lens in the eye that causes blurry vision.
It progresses slowly as we age. Causes of cataracts include aging, diabetes, trauma, some medications, and excessive UV light exposure.
Your doctor can see a cataract while doing a routine eye exam. Surgery is curative as the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one, called an IOL or intraocular lens. There are many types of Intraocular lens and will determine where the eye is in focus following surgery.
Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that can begin at any age, but usually develops after age 60. This eye condition progressively destroys your macula, which is the central portion of the retina.
There are two types: wet and dry. In wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow, leaking blood and fluid, causing loss of central vision. Treatment consists of injections to stop or slow the leakage. In dry macular degeneration, the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down causing central vision to diminish over time. Treatment consists of special vitamins to slow the process.
Conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, is an eye disease that causes redness and inflammation of the clear tissue covering the eye and the inside of the eyelids. It is caused by bacterial or viral infections and irritants such as chemicals, pollutants, or allergens.
Most infections do not need antibiotics. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic drops or ointments. A crusty discharge makes opening the eyelids difficult.
Uveitis is inflammation to the middle layers of the eye called the uvea. The uvea consists of the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid and contains the arteries and veins. Causes of uveitis include trauma or injury to the eye, infections, or rheumatologic or inflammatory diseases that affect other parts of the body. The main symptom of uveitis is pain in the eyeball. The eye will look red and you may notice blurred vision, light sensitivity, and spots in your vision.
Treatment for uveitis depends on the cause. Anti-inflammatory or antibiotic drops will be prescribed.
Causes of eye allergies are usually due to seasonal allergies, sensitivities to cosmetics or medications, or dust. Over-the-counter eye drops that contain antihistamines or decongestants are usually helpful. Make an appointment if these do not work, or if you experience pain, discharge, or extreme eye redness.
A stye is an infection of the oil gland at the base of an eyelash. It appears as a red, raised pimple on the edge of the eyelid. Symptoms are pain, tenderness, redness, and swelling with a small pustule. The eyeball itself may feel irritated or as if something is scratching it due to the swelling of the eyelid. If the stye comes to a head and releases pus this usually leads to resolution, if not, an appointment is indicated.
The cornea is the clear surface covering the front of the eye. It is normally smooth and round. Weakness in the structure of the cornea can lead to a cone-shaped abnormal bulge to the front of the eye in a condition called keratoconus. Changes in the shape of the cornea make it difficult for the eye to focus even with the help of glasses or contact lenses. This is diagnosed by corneal topography in the office.
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. The inflammation can be found on the outer (anterior) or inner (posterior) eyelid. Symptoms include burning, itching, swelling, flaky material at the base of the lashes, crusting of the eyelids, tearing, or blurred vision. Common causes of blepharitis are problems with oil glands at the base of the eyelids, infections, or other skin conditions. Treatment includes frequent cleaning, light scrubbing. Severe cases of blepharitis may require antibiotics or steroids or treatment with lipiflow to unblock oil glands.
A chalazion is the inflammation of a small cystic gland in the eyelid. The gland becomes clogged and the gland swells. Chalazions are treated with warm compresses, they may require antibiotics. If the chalazion becomes severe, causes changes in vision, or is persistent, it may be removed surgically in the office. And is covered by insurance.
A corneal ulcer is a small crater (ulcer) on the front part of the eye, usually following an infection. Bacteria, viruses, or fungus can be the cause.
People who wear contact lenses are at higher risk for corneal ulcers.
Symptoms of a corneal ulcer include:
- intense redness,
- feeling as if something is in the eye,
- sensitivity to light
- blurry vision.
If you suspect a corneal ulcer or have the symptoms of a corneal ulcer and wear contact lenses, make an appointment immediately. High potency antibiotics will be prescribed.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:
- Nonproliferative retinopathy, the less severe type in which there may be bleeding in the retina and leakage of blood or lipid causing a swelling in the center of the eye requiring treatment.
- Proliferative retinopathy, a more severe type where new abnormal blood vessels grow abnormally on the retina. These vessels may bleed into the vitreous.
Treatment involves laser surgery and intraocular injections and surgery. Strict glucose control and a healthy lifestyle with weight loss, dietary restrictions, and exercise can reduce the risk.
Crossed eyes is an eye problem involving a misalignment of your eyes. This may be congenital or acquired.
Young children born with this disorder may develop decreased vision in one eye (amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye.”). Treatment for strabismus involves using an eye patch on the stronger eye, eye exercises, and possibly surgery.
Acquired or new onset diplopia needs evaluated to determine the cause, as some causes require immediate treatment.
Floaters are caused by aging changes in the vitreous jelly of the eye. They are a common consequence of aging. If you develop multiple floaters, or floaters associated with pain make an appointment. In general floaters do not cause blindness and are mostly harmless, but can be a sign of a retinal detachment, bleeding, inflammation or infection.