What are Eye Diseases?
Eye diseases is an umbrella term describing various issues which may affect the eyes.
The eye is a small yet vital organ which the brain utilizes to create images of its surroundings. Various factors may interfere with the eyes. These can be a result of injuries, diseases or natural aging.
An eye problem is fairly common in the United States. It is thought that around 11 million people need vision correction. (1)
The eyes have four main parts: the iris, cornea, lens and retina. When light touches the eyes, it is converted to electrical signals (nerve impulses) which travels to the brain. (2)
The iris catches the light by expanding and contracting. It is made up of muscles which work to regulate the amount of light to adjust the sight.
In the middle of the iris is located a black dot (pupil). A transparent layer called cornea covers it, to protect from injury. Once light passes through the pupil, it will reach the lens.
The lens is similar to binoculars. It works to zoom in and out to adapt to the distance of objects. Light then passes further through the eye until it reaches the retina.
The retina is a membrane fitted with millions of sensory cells. These will transform the light into nerve signals, sending outside images to the brain.
Vision is an essential tool. Without it, daily tasks can be a challenge.
Generally the early stages of an eye problem won’t present with many or even any symptoms. Many people won’t know that their sight is deteriorating until they try a pair of glasses or corrective lenses. (3)
Regular check-ups are crucial to keep the eyes healthy and halting any developing diseases.
Below is an explanation of some of the most common eye diseases and problems in the U.S., and their respective symptoms.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes has various effects on the eyes. The two most common diseases include: diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema (DME). (4)
These diseases will usually not cause any noticeable symptoms during early stages. However, as these progresses, sight will likely worsen.
Diabetic retinopathy generally causes the fragile veins to break. Blood spots are likely to appear which may partially block the vision. Without treatment, these may become permanent.
DME causes the retina to become swollen. When this happens, the vision will begin to appear blurry. This condition usually follows the former, but may occur on its own.
Cataracts is an eye disease causing clouding on the lens which may affect one or both eyes. This condition is prevalent after the age of 80 where more than 50 percent of the U.S. population may be affected. (5)
It will usually cause the vision to appear blurry. Colors may be faded or off point and glare of lights are likely to present.
The affected might exhibit limited vision after dark and may require a change in the use and type of eyewear. Double vision may also be encountered.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is a common cause of vision loss among the elderly population in the United States. It will cause the cells inside the macula to die. The macula is what allows an individual to see things in detail. (6)
This condition will have grave effects on daily life. It deteriorates the central vision, which enables a person to see objects sharply. If it suffers damage, it will compromise abilities to read, drive or watch television.
Glaucoma is a common name for the disease affecting the optic nerve of the eye. (7)
This condition may progress to vision loss or blindness. This may be prevented with treatment.
Early stages usually go undetected. Symptoms are subtle, or may not present, making it difficult for the affected to notice. However, over time the side vision will weaken, eventually causing black edges to appear. Some describe this as tunnel vision.
Refractive errors are a term used to define some of the most common eyesight problems. These may include: myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia, and astigmatism. (8)
These conditions may occur if the eyeball’s shape changes, thus preventing light from targeting the retina. In turn, this may result in myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).
Refractive errors usually manifest with blurred and double vision. Those affected might also describe haziness or glares near bright lights. They will likely exhibit squinting or eye strain to focus on objects. It may also cause headaches.
Amblyopia is a condition in which the eye and brain are not working in unison to create vision. It is sometimes called “lazy eye.” (9)
In these circumstances, the brain tends to favor the other eye as the affected eye may be more farsighted.
It can also develop if there is a misalignment of the eyes. This is usually characterized as strabismus, a condition where the eyes may either be pointing inward or outward.
The vision will generally be blurry and it might be difficult to focus or distinguish details.
Because an eye problem can refer to a wide range of diseases and problems, different stages apply to each issue.
Most of these will progress through stages of increasing severity, beginning in an early stage advancing to a late-stage. Early stages usually won’t manifest with any symptoms and may only be discovered through an eye exam. (10)
It is important to discover early signs of an eye problem as it may progress to vision loss or even blindness. A specialist will generally do a comprehensive dilated eye exam. (11)
During this examination, the doctor will look for indicators of common eyesight problems. He/she may begin with placing a few drops of a substance which makes the eyes dilate and ready for inspection.
This is usually followed by pressure tests, a peripheral vision assessment and a visual acuity test. The patient is asked to read from an eye chart where letters appear in different sizes.
If an issue is discovered, doctors will proceed with treatment.
Treatment of eye diseases will depend on the type of issue which has occurred.
If another condition caused the problem, treatment would generally be focused on gaining control of the underlying cause. This might minimize the negative impact on vision. (12)
Other problems may be treated with eye surgery. This may involve replacing a cloudy lens with an artificial one. Surgery is usually done to address conditions such as cataracts. (13)
Injections and medications may also be used to slow down deteriorating vision. Although depending on the problem, it is rarely a cure. In many cases, a change in eyewear may help.
Doctors usually recommend leading a healthy lifestyle with limited intake of alcohol and cigarettes. They suggest eating a balanced diet enriched with “sight-friendly” foods like dark leafy greens and fish, like tuna or salmon. (14)
It is also advised to be aware of family history and have regular eye exams. This is to prevent eye diseases during earlier stages where minimum damage is yet to occur.
What are eye diseases? Eye diseases refer to one of various diseases and issues which can affect the eyes.
What are the signs of an eye diseases? Signs and symptoms will depend on the specific issue. It will usually involve the quality of sight where some might cause blurry or double vision. Some people might not be able to see things close up and others have difficulty with distance vision. This will often cause headaches where some people might experience glazing or halo-like rings around lights.
How do you develop eye diseases? Various conditions may affect the eye, which can arise due to different events or factors. It might be caused by another condition such as diabetes, or it could be a congenital disability or injury. The eyes are generally affected by aging, where vision is likely to become weakened over time. (15)
How are you diagnosed for eye diseases? Doctors will generally do a comprehensive eye exam. This may involve dilating the eyes with drops to gain a better view. Pressing on the eye assesses the pressure on the inside is often part of the exam. It usually also includes a vision examination where the affected will read letters in different sizes. (16)
What is the best treatment of eye diseases? Treatment will depend on the issue and severity. Some may be corrected with a change in eyewear, while others require medications and possibly eye surgery.
What are the long term complications of eye diseases? Long term complications can involve severe vision loss or even blindness. Some people may also develop depressive disorders. (17)
Is an eye disease considered a disability? Severe eye problems may be viewed as a disability as they can have a serious impact on sight. Those affected may not be able to work or drive. (18)
Is there any cure for eye diseases? It depends on the specific problem. Some may be cured while others can only be managed for a specific length of time.
Is an eye disease life threatening? An eye problem in itself is usually not seen as life threatening.
Eye disease is a collective term describing the many conditions which may affect the eyes.
These can have many different causes. It is a prevalent issue, developing over time as the eyes age.
Symptoms usually won’t manifest until later stages when the conditions might be harder to treat. Regular checkups are recommended to discover and prevent the progression of any possible problem.