6 of the Most Common Eye Problems and How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

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Eyesight is truly a valuable asset and one that we often take for granted until we experience some form of vision loss. We use our eyes every day to see what’s going on in the world around us and as such they are subject to extensive wear and tear. There are also some serious eye problems that may have sudden symptoms.

To keep your eyes healthy, it’s advisable to be aware of common eye problems so that you can detect them early on if you develop them, and this may help cure or curb them.

In this article we’ll look at the six most common eye problems. We’ll also discuss what you can do to keep your eyes healthy and help prevent them.


The six most common eye problems

1. Refractive errors

According to the National Eye Institute, the most common cause of vision problems are refractive errors. They are more commonly known as:

Near-sightedness (also called myopia) – you can see clearly up close, but objects faraway look blurry. Far-sightedness (also called hyperopia) – you can see distant objects more clearly than near ones. Astigmatism – images may be blurry and stretched out. Presbyopia - an age-related hardening of your lens that can make it more difficult to focus up close.

Refractive errors occur when light is prevented from focusing directly on your retina. This is caused by the shape of your eye including: the length of your eyeball (longer or shorter), cornea shape changes, or natural aging of your lens. Most people have one or more of these conditions.


2. Cataracts

A cataract is the clouding of your lens and it can interfere with your vision. Cataracts are most often age-related and are more common from the age of 65. They can also be caused by injury and exposure to the sun is a risk factor. Cataracts are better treated early and surgery can cure them. If left they can cause vision loss.


3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma can damage your eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. Early treatment may protect you from serious vision loss however glaucoma has few or no initial symptoms. It’s important to attend regular appointments with eye care specialists to help detect glaucoma early. Glaucoma can be treated with surgery, lasers or medicated eye drops.


4. Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a common diabetic eye disease. It’s most often caused when your retinal blood vessels become damaged, causing intraocular bleeding and resulting in permanent vision loss. In the early stages you may not have any symptoms and therefore if you have diabetes you should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.


5. Macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that blurs your central vision, that you use when reading, sewing, and driving. It affects the part of your eye known as the macula that allows you to see fine detail. It’s a leading cause of vision loss in people age 50 plus. Risk factors for AMD include: age, smoking, race, family history and genetics.

Often there are no symptoms initially but a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD. Medical intervention and therapies can slow progression or stop further vision loss.


6. Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a progressive thinning of your cornea that leads to an abnormal curvature of your cornea and can cause double or blurred vision, near-sightedness, astigmatism, and increased sensitivity to light.

It is the most common type of corneal dystrophy and is most prevalent in teenagers and adults in their 20s. Often contact lenses will correct your vision and the cornea will stabilise after a few years without causing severe vision problems. For some, this is not the case and a corneal transplant may become necessary.


Tips to keeping your eyes healthy

1. Eat well

Food containing nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E can help ward off age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. A healthy diet can help keep obesity related diseases such as diabetes at bay and reduce the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy.


2. Stop smoking

Smoking increases your likelihood of developing cataracts, sustaining damage to your optic nerve, and macular degeneration.


3. Choose high protection sunglasses

Protect your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays and reduce your chances of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.

Choose a pair of sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound sunglasses offer side protection. Polarised lenses reduce glare when driving.


4. Wear safety eyewear

Wear safety glasses or protective goggles if you are doing a hazardous job at home or work.

Wear eye protection if you partake in sports that are high risk for eye injuries such as baseball, basketball, hockey, football, rugby, lacrosse, outdoor cycling, fencing, racquet sports, boxing, wrestling, and martial arts.


5. Look away from your screen

Staring at a computer or phone screen for too long can cause eye problems including: strain, blurry vision, trouble focusing at a distance and dry eyes.

Protect your eyes by wearing glasses or contact lenses that have an up to date prescription, position your screen so your eyes are level with the top of the monitor and you are looking slightly down at the screen, try to avoid glare from windows and lights, blink if your eyes feel dry and rest your eyes every 20 minutes.


6. Have a regular eye examination

A regular eye examination will help to protect your sight, assist you to see the best you can, and detect diseases that may have no symptoms such as glaucoma.

Most people will see an optometrist for an eye examination. They provide general eye care and treat the most common eye diseases. The frequency of eye examinations varies depending upon your age and anticipated risk. People with higher risk, such as those with: diabetes, a previous eye trauma, surgery or a family history of glaucoma, may need an eye exam more frequently than others.

You may choose to see a consultant ophthalmologist (medical doctor who specialise in eye care) for general eye care, eye disease treatment and eye surgery.

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