In a study that surveyed 2,044 respondents, it was found that the ailment that frightens the majority of Americans the most is vision loss. Most individuals surveyed (87.5 percent) believed that good vision is vital to overall health, while 47.4 percent rated vision loss as the worst possible health outcome. Respondents also ranked losing their vision as equal to, or worse than, losing their hearing, memory, speech, or even a limb. And when asked about various possible consequences of vision loss, quality of life ranked as the top concern.
Thankfully, vision loss is relatively rare in developed countries, though it’s important to be aware of common eye problems in order to seek effective treatment. The following five eye problems are reviewed in order from representing the least serious risk to the most serious risk for vision loss.
Conjunctivitis, more known as “pink eye”, is an infection that causes the swelling of the conjunctiva, which is the layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid. General pink eye symptoms include increased tears, thick yellow discharge or crust after sleep, itchy eyes, blurry vision, increased sensitivity to light and redness.
Pink eye is commonly caused by bacterial or viral infections but may also be due to irritants, like pollutants or chemicals. Most cases are viral and do not require treatment. But bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic drops or ointments.
A cataract is the clouding of the lens inside of the eye. The lens is mostly made up of water and protein and is arranged in a way that keeps the lens clear and allows light to pass through. As we age, some of this protein can clump together and begin to cloud the lens.
Some people describe their cataract experience as looking through a foggy veil or a blurry window. However, other symptoms include declining vision, difficulty with glare, blurry sight and other visual changes. If cataracts are left untreated, over time they can begin to expand in size, making it difficult to see.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that develop from elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eye, affecting the optic nerve. Although some types of glaucoma may cause immediate and significant changes in vision, this is not always the case. Vision loss due to glaucoma is often a gradual process as a person’s eyesight begins to narrow and worsen. Other symptoms of glaucoma include “halos” around lights, tunnel vision, eye pain, redness, headaches, blurriness, hazy or cloudy eyes, and loss of peripheral vision.
By the time vision is affected, the damage may be permanent, but it can be slowed or halted with certain treatments. This makes it imperative to diagnose glaucoma as early as possible in order to prevent further damage to the eye.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an incurable eye disorder characterized by the deterioration of the central area (the macula) of the retina deep within the eye where images are conveyed through the optic nerve to the brain. Of all eye problems, AMD is generally the most serious and poses the greatest risk.
There are two different kinds of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD is characterized by painless, gradual visual distortion. About 85% to 90% of AMD cases are of the “dry” (atrophic) type. Wet AMD, which is far less common, can cause rapid vision loss. While only 10-15% of AMD cases are of the “wet” (exudative) type, they account for 90% of serious vision loss.
Other than a gradual or sudden change in the quality of your vision, followed by the appearance of straight lines as distorted, no definite symptoms of AMD exist in its early stages. In its more advanced stages, however, vision loss is characterized by the loss of central vision (the object of focus is acutely blurred), while clarity of peripheral vision remains unaffected.
When it comes to these and other eye conditions, the one essential thing to remember is that early detection is key for effective treatment.
If you’re experiencing any issues with your eyes, don’t wait to schedule a checkup with an eye doctor. At OCLI Vision (formerly Eyecare 20/20), our team of experienced doctors specialize in everything from comprehensive eye exams and low vision assistance to glaucoma treatment and LASIK eye surgery. Contact us today to schedule an exam.
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