Most people have eye problems at one time or another. Some are minor and will go away on their own, or they’re easy to treat at home. Others need a specialist’s care.
Whether your vision isn’t what it used to be, or it never was that great, there are often things you can do to get your eye health back on track.
See if any of these common problems sound familiar. And always check with a doctor if your symptoms are really bad or don’t clear up within a few days.
Anyone who reads for hours, works at a computer, or drives long distances knows about this one. It happens when you overuse your eyes. They get tired and need to rest, just like any other part of your body.
If your eyes feel strained, rest them for a while. If they’re still weary after a few days, check with your doctor to make sure it’s not another problem.
Your eyes look bloodshot. Why?
Their surface has blood vessels that expand when they’re irritated or infected. That gives your eyes the red look.
Eyestrain can do it, as well as a late night, or not getting enough sleep. Allergies can be a cause. If an injury is to blame, get it checked by your doctor.
Red eyes can also be a symptom of other eye conditions, like conjunctivitis (pinkeye) or sun damage from not wearing sunglasses over the years. If over-the-counter eye drops and rest don’t clear it up, see your doctor.
A lot of people complain about not seeing well at night, especially when driving. Some people can’t see clearly in dark rooms, like movie theaters.
Night blindness is a symptom. It means simply that you don’t see well in dark or poorly lit places. Nearsightedness, cataracts and vitamin A deficiency are all causes of night blindness that doctors can fix.
But some people are born with night blindness, and that’s usually not treatable. If that’s true for you, you’ll need to be extra careful in areas of low light.
Lazy eye, or amblyopia, happens when one eye doesn’t develop properly. Vision is weaker in that eye, and it tends to move “lazily” around while the other eye stays put. It’s found in infants, children, and adults, and rarely affects both eyes. If in infants and children, treatment needs to be sought after immediately.
Lifelong vision problems can be avoided if a lazy eye is detected and treated during early childhood. Treatment includes corrective glasses or contact lenses, and using a patch or other strategies to make a child use the lazy eye.
Cross Eyes (Strabismus) and Nystagmus
If your eyes are not aligned with each other when you are looking at something, you could have strabismus, also called cross eyes or wall eyes.
Strabismus will not go away on its own. You’ll need to get an ophthalmologist, or eye specialist, to correct it.
With nystagmus, the eyes move constantly and without voluntary control.
There are many treatments, including vision therapy to make the eyes stronger. Surgery is also an option. Your doctor will examine your eyes to see which treatment might work best for you.
When you can’t see certain colors, or can’t distinguish between colors (usually reds and greens), you may be color blind. It happens when the color cells in the eye, or cone cells, are absent or don’t work correctly.
When it’s most severe, you can only see in shades of gray, but this is rare. Most people who have it are born with it, but you can develop it later in life.
Men are much more likely to be born with color blindness than women. In adults, certain drugs and diseases can cause it.
Your eye doctor can give you a simple test to confirm color blindness. While there is no treatment if you’re born with it, special contact lenses and glasses might help people tell the difference between certain colors.
If you develop color blindness later in life, your doctor can check to see why it happened. If you take medication for another illness, your doctor may be able to tell you if the medicine is to blame, or if you have another condition that’s the cause.
This is the name for a group of diseases that cause inflammation of the uvea. That’s the middle layer of the eye that contains most of the blood vessels.
These diseases can destroy eye tissue, and even cause eye loss. People of all ages can have it. Symptoms may go away quickly or last for a long time.
People with immune system conditions like AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, or ulcerative colitis may be more likely to have uveitis. Symptoms may include:
• Blurred vision
• Eye pain
• Eye redness
• Light sensitivity
See your doctor if you have these symptoms and they don’t go away within a few days. There are different kinds of treatment for uveitis, depending on the type you have.
This happens when you lose the ability, despite good distance vision, to clearly see close objects and small print.
After age 40 or so, you may find yourself holding a book or other reading material farther away from your eyes in an attempt to make it easier to read. Sort of like your arms are too short.
Reading glasses, contact lenses, LASIK, which is laser eye surgery, and other procedures can be used to restore good reading vision.
These are tiny spots or specks that float across your field of vision. Most people notice them in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day.
Floaters are usually normal, but sometimes can be a sign of a more serious eye problem, such as retinal detachment, which is when the retina separates from the layer underneath. When this happens, you might also see light flashes that occur with the floaters and/or a dark shadow come across the edge of your vision.
If you notice a sudden change in the type or number of spots or flashes you see, go to your eye doctor as soon as possible.
This happens when tear glands can't make enough good-quality tears. Dry eyes are uncomfortable and can cause you to feel that something is in your eye or a burning sensation. Rarely, in severe cases, extreme dryness of the eyes can lead to some loss of vision.
Your eye doctor may suggest using a humidifier in your home or special eye drops that are similar to real tears. He or she may put plugs in your tear ducts to lessen tear drainage. A procedure called Lipiflow uses heat and pressure to treat dry eyes. Testosterone eye cream may be recommended. Nutritional supplements containing fish oil and omega-3 are helpful to many people with dry eye.
If your dry eye problem is chronic, you may have dry eye disease. You doctor could prescribe medicated drops such as Restasis or Xiidra to stimulate tear production.
It’s not that you’re too emotional. Too many tears can come from being sensitive to light, wind, or temperature changes. Try to protect your eyes by shielding them or wearing sunglasses (wraparound frames block more wind than wayfarer types).
Tearing may also mean that you have a more serious problem, such as an eye infection or a blocked tear duct. Your eye doctor can treat or correct both of these conditions.
These are cloudy areas that develop within the eye lens.
A healthy lens is clear like a camera's, and light has no problem passing through it to the retina at the back where images are processed. When you have a cataract, the light can't get through as easily and, as a result, you can't see as well.
Cataracts often form slowly. They don't cause symptoms like pain, redness, or tearing in the eye.
Some stay small and don't affect your eyesight. If cataracts progress and affect your vision, surgery is almost always successful at restoring your vision.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of diseases which damage the nerve of the eye, or optic nerve, because of an increase in eye fluid pressure.
The eye is like a tire: Some pressure is normal and safe. But when the pressure goes up, it can lead to damage of the optic nerve. Doctors call this “primary open angle glaucoma.” Most people who have it don’t have early symptoms or pain. So it's very important to keep up with your regular eye exams.
Less commonly, glaucoma can be caused by:
• An injury to the eye
• Blocked blood vessels
• Inflammatory disorders of the eye
Treatment may include prescription eye drops or surgery.
The retina is a thin lining on the back of your eye made up of cells that collect images and pass them on to the brain. Retinal disorders block this transfer. There are different kinds of retinal disorders, including:
• Age-related macular degeneration, or breakdown of a small portion of the retina called the macula
• Diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the blood vessels of the retina caused by diabetes
• Retinal detachment which happens when the retina separates from the layer underneath
It’s very important to get an early diagnosis and have these conditions treated.
This condition happens when the tissue that lines the eyelids and covers the cornea gets inflamed. It can cause redness, itching, burning, tearing, discharge, or a feeling that something is in your eye.
To lower your chance of getting it, make frequent hand washing a habit.
The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped "window" at the front of your eye. It helps to focus the light coming in.
Disease, infection, injury, and exposure to toxic things can damage it and cause eye redness, watery eyes, pain, reduced vision, or a halo effect. If you have it, you may need a new prescription for your eyeglasses or contacts, to use medicated eye drops, and possibly to have surgery.
Your eyelids do a lot for you. They protect your eye, spread tears over its surface, and limit the amount of light that can get in.
Pain, itching, tearing, and sensitivity to light are common symptoms of eyelid problems. Other problems could include blinking spasms or inflamed outer edges near the eyelashes.
Treatment may include proper cleaning, medication, or surgery.
Vision changes can be normal as you get older. You may find that you can’t see as well as you once did. You’ll probably need glasses or contacts for that. You may choose to have surgery (LASIK) to correct your vision. If you already have glasses, you may need a stronger prescription.
Other, more serious conditions, can happen as you age. For example, eye diseases like macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts, can cause vision problems. Symptoms vary a lot among these disorders, so keep up with your eye exams.
Some vision changes can be dangerous and need immediate medical care. Any time you have a sudden loss of vision, or everything looks blurry, even if it’s temporary, you need to see a doctor right away or call 911.
Problems with Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are great for a lot of people, but you need to take care of them. Wash your hands before you handle your contacts and follow the care guidelines you were given with your prescription.
There are several different kinds of contact lenses. Your doctor can help you decide which is best for you. These include:
- Daily disposable contacts (also called single-use, these are the safest soft contacts and are discarded every day)
- Daily-wear contacts (disinfected at night and discarded at a time interval specified by your doctor, also a safe alternative to glasses for many people)
- Extended-wear lenses (for overnight wear, they sometimes cause more frequent complications due to length of use)
- Hard contact lenses (rigid, gas-permeable lenses, considered the safest to use)
To help prevent an eye infection, consider wearing single-use disposable lenses, which are the safest type of soft contact lens. Never wet them by putting them in your mouth as it increases the risk of infection.
Make sure your lenses fit properly, so they don’t scratch your eyes. Also look for eye drops that work well with your lenses. And never use homemade saline solutions, which could cause an infection because they aren’t sterile.
If you do everything right and still have problems with your contacts, see your eye doctor. You might have allergies, dry eyes, or just be better off with glasses. Once you know what the problem is, you can decide what’s best for you.