Eye disease is a subject most of us don’t give much thought to; however, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. If left untreated, many of these diseases can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness. As part of maintaining overall health, it is important to remember our eyes as well. Learn more about some of the most common eye diseases today, their symptoms and prevention.
Cataracts occur when natural proteins in our eyes begin to clump, diminishing our ability to see. If cataracts are left untreated, they can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness. While cataracts are not often discussed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credit them as the leading cause of blindness worldwide. In fact, it is estimated that 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40 have at least one cataract in one or both eyes.
- Images become less sharp, colors may appear faded
- A halo may seem to surround bright lights
- Difficulty seeing at night
Cataracts can be a side effect of other diseases, like diabetes, or bad habits, including smoking and excessive alcohol use. They are also attributable to high exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Individuals can protect their eyes from cataracts with healthy practices, including proper diet, avoidance of tobacco and excess alcohol, and with the use of polarized sunglasses designed to filter UVA/UVB light. Ultimately, the only cure for cataracts is eye surgery, in which the affected lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.
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Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, primarily affects individuals over the age of 50 and is a leading cause of vision loss within this age group. There are two forms of this eye disease: dry and wet. Wet macular degeneration is the result of abnormal blood vessel growth behind the eye. Dry macular degeneration is when part of the retina (called the macula) begins to thin. This form of AMD is the most common, accounting for 70% to 90% of all AMD diagnoses.
- Blurred or blank spots near your center of vision
Macular degeneration is primarily due to age; however, other risk factors include smoking and a family history of the eye disease. This disease is also less likely to be diagnosed in people with healthy habits, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet. According to studies conducted by the National Eye Institute, middle- and late-stage AMD has been shown to respond positively to increases in vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper. Late-stage macular degeneration is also treated with injections and laser therapy.
Glaucoma is a disease that effects the eye’s optic nerve, often, but not always, as the result of eye pressure. If not detected early, this disease can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness. According to the American Academy™ of Ophthalmology, the eye disease affects roughly 60.5 million people worldwide, of which 2.7 million individuals over the age of 40 are in the United States. Glaucoma is primarily attributable to family history and is more likely to affect individuals over the age of 40.
- Glaucoma can often be symptomless, making early detection only possible through regular eye screenings
- Diminished peripheral vision (in later stages of the disease)
While it can be difficult to prevent glaucoma, early detection is key to slowing the advancement of the disease. Because of this, and because of the often-undetected progression of the disease, individuals over the age of 40 are encouraged to visit an eye care professional for proper screening. Treatment includes medicines and eye drops, laser therapy and surgical procedures.
Disclaimer: This blog is meant to be informative but is not an exhaustive list of eye diseases, symptoms or treatments. For more information, please see your eye care professional.