There's more to healthy vision than 20/20 eyesight!

Eye Health Problems

There are a variety of problems and conditions that can affect your eyes. This page discusses some of the most common eye health problems and treatment options.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease affecting the macula, the center of the light sensitive retina at the back of the eye, causing loss of central vision. Although small, the macula is the part of the retina that allows us to see fine detail and colors. Activities like reading, driving, watching TV and recognizing faces all require good central vision provided by the macula. While macular degeneration causes changes in central vision, peripheral or side vision remains unaffected.

An annual eye exam can help catch devastating eye diseases, like glaucoma and macular degeneration, early. Early detection increases the chances of maintaining healthy vision in senior years.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition occurring in people with diabetes. It is the result of progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. They leak blood and other fluids that cause swelling of retinal tissue and clouding of vision. The condition usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blindness.

Retinal detachment is a tearing or separation of the retina from the underlying tissue. It can be caused by trauma to the eye or head, health problems like advanced diabetes, and inflammatory disorders of the eye. But it most often occurs spontaneously as a result of changes to the gel-like vitreous fluid that fills the back of the eye. If not treated promptly, it can cause permanent vision loss.

Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending upon their size and location, they can interfere with normal vision. Usually cataracts develop in both eyes, but one may be worse than the other. Cataracts can cause a decrease in contrast sensitivity, a dulling of colors and increased sensitivity to glare.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve resulting in vision loss. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans and older adults are at higher risk for developing the disease.

Dry eye

Dry eye is a condition in which there is an insufficient amount of tears or a poor quality of tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. Dry eyes are a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis, often called “pink eye,” is a common eye disease, especially in children. It may affect one or both eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and easily spread in schools and at home. While conjunctivitis is usually a minor eye infection, sometimes it can develop into a more serious problem.
Conjunctivitis may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It can also occur due to an allergic reaction to irritants in the air like pollen and smoke, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes. Sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia and gonorrhea are less common causes of conjunctivitis.

People with conjunctivitis may experience the following symptoms:

  1. A gritty feeling in one or both eyes
  2. Itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes
  3. Excessive tearing
  4. Discharge coming from one or both eyes
  5. Swollen eyelids
  6. Pink discoloration to the whites of one or both eyes
  7. Increased sensitivity to light

What causes conjunctivitis?

Allergic Conjunctivitis occurs more commonly among people who already have seasonal allergies.

The cause of conjunctivitis varies depending on the offending agent. There are three main categories of conjunctivitis: allergic, infectious and chemical:
Allergic Conjunctivitis

  • Allergic Conjunctivitis occurs more commonly among people who already have seasonal allergies. At some point they come into contact with a substance that triggers an allergic reaction in their eyes.
  • Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis is a type of allergic conjunctivitis caused by the chronic presence of a foreign body in the eye. This condition occurs predominantly with people who wear hard or rigid contact lenses, wear soft contact lenses that are not replaced frequently, have an exposed suture on the surface of the eye, or have a glass eye.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis is an infection most often caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria from your own skin or respiratory system. Infection can also occur by transmittal from insects, physical contact with other people, poor hygiene (touching the eye with unclean hands), or by use of contaminated eye makeup and facial lotions.

Viral Conjunctivitis is most commonly caused by contagious viruses associated with the common cold. The primary means of contracting this is through exposure to coughing or sneezing by persons with upper respiratory tract infections. It can also occur as the virus spreads along the body’s own mucous membranes connecting lungs, throat, nose, tear ducts, and conjunctiva.

Ophthalmia Neonatorum is a severe form of bacterial conjunctivitis that occurs in newborn babies. This is a serious condition that could lead to permanent eye damage unless it is treated immediately. Ophthalmia neonatorum occurs when an infant is exposed to Chlamydia or gonorrhea while passing through the birth canal.

Chemical Conjunctivitis

Chemical Conjunctivitis can be caused by irritants like air pollution, chlorine in swimming pools, and exposure to noxious chemicals.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids causing red, irritated, itchy eyelids and the formation of dandruff-like scales on eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either bacterial or a skin condition such as dandruff of the scalp or acne rosacea. It affects people of all ages. Although uncomfortable, blepharitis is not contagious and generally does not cause any permanent damage to eyesight.
Blepharitis is classified into two types:

  1. Anterior blepharitis occurs at the outside front edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are attached.
  2. Posterior blepharitis affects the inner edge of the eyelid that comes in contact with the eyeball.

Individuals with blepharitis may experience a gritty or burning sensation in their eyes, excessive tearing, itching, red and swollen eyelids, dry eyes, or crusting of the eyelids. For some people, blepharitis causes only minor irritation and itching. However, it can lead to more severe signs and symptoms such as blurring of vision, missing or misdirected eyelashes, and inflammation of other eye tissue, particularly the cornea.
In many cases, good eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine can control blepharitis. This includes frequent scalp and face washing, using warm compresses to soak the eyelids, and doing eyelid scrubs. In cases where a bacterial infection is the cause, various antibiotics and other medications may be prescribed along with eyelid hygiene.

What causes blepharitis?

Blepharitis can appear as greasy flakes or scales around the base of the eyelashes.
Anterior blepharitis is commonly caused by bacteria (staphylococcal blepharitis) or dandruff of the scalp and eyebrows (seborrheic blepharitis). It may also occur due to a combination of factors, or less commonly may be the result of allergies or an infestation of the eyelashes.
Posterior blepharitis can be caused by irregular oil production by the glands of the eyelids (meibomian blepharitis) which creates a favorable environment for bacterial growth. It can also develop as a result of other skin conditions such as acne rosacea and scalp dandruff.

Flashes and Floaters

Vitreous floaters are small semi-transparency or cloudy particles that float within the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inner portion of the eye. Floaters often look like specks, strands, or cobwebs in front of your eyes. Deterioration of the vitreous fluid from injuries, surgeries, or certain eye diseases can cause floaters. Sometimes flashes or streaks of light may appear from the vitreous shrinking or pulling on the retina. As the vitreous continues to liquefy or collapse, it may pull away from the retina. This is known as a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) which can cause a “tug” on the retina. This mechanical stimulation of the retina is perceived by the brain as bursts of light and explains the momentary flashing or visual aura often accompanying the onset of floaters.

Sudden onset of floaters, flashes or streaks of light may be symptoms or signs of vitreous or retinal detachment and should be immediately seen by your optometrist to determine if what you are seeing is harmless, or the symptom of a more serious problem.