Common Eye Diseases & Conditions
Glaucoma is one of the most widely known and commonly diagnosed eye diseases patients can experience. Glaucoma is a term that encompasses a few different subtypes of the same disease, all of which affect your optic disc. For the most part, glaucoma damages the optic disc and is caused by high intraocular eye pressure (IOP).
How your IOP levels rise is determined by the type of glaucoma you have. The 2 most common forms of glaucoma are:
- Open-angle glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma occurs when tiny blockages begin to form in your eye’s drainage canal, called the trabecular meshwork. These blockages prevent aqueous humor (eye fluid) from draining from the eye, causing the fluid to build up and increasing your IOP. As IOP levels rise, your optic disk is more likely to become damaged, compromising your vision.
- Closed-angle (angle-closure) glaucoma. Closed-angle glaucoma develops much faster than its open-angle counterpart and with more dramatic results. This version of the disease occurs when the drainage angle between your cornea and iris closes off completely. When this happens, your eye fluid builds up quickly and results in a rapid deterioration of your vision. Closed-angle glaucoma is considered a medical emergency.
The tricky thing about glaucoma is that it could also develop without your IOP levels rising. In normal-tension glaucoma, your optic disc can still be damaged even without the build-up of fluid. Optometrists aren’t quite sure how this can occur, but they can check for signs of the disease by observing damages to the optic disc through an eye exam.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that slowly harms your macula as you age. The macula is responsible for your central vision. As it deteriorates, it can affect your ability to drive, read, or even recognize faces. The risk of having AMD rises with age, but you’re at a higher risk if you smoke, have diabetes, or maintain a poor diet.
There are 2 versions of AMD you could experience:
- Dry AMD occurs when small deposits of lipids, known as drusen, begin to form on the retina. As they develop, they thin and deteriorate the macula and damage your vision.
- Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to form behind the retina. These blood vessels are tiny, delicate, and prone to breaking. When they break, they leak blood and other fluids onto the macula, leading to rapid vision loss. This is considered to be a medical emergency and requires immediate assistance.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is a condition that can cause severe irritation, dryness, or soreness, and may cause a stringy crust to develop on your eyelids. Conjunctivitis occurs when your conjunctiva is irritated by:
- Allergies caused by dust, pollen, or pet dander. This is one of the most common forms of conjunctivitis, and it can be easily treated using allergy medication or eye drops.
- Viruses. This is a highly infectious form of conjunctivitis that can quickly spread from one person to another. It doesn’t necessarily require treatment since it often just needs to be left to run its course, but that doesn’t mean your optometrist can’t suggest strategies to mitigate your symptoms.
- Bacterial infection Bacterial conjunctivitis is easily transferable, but antibiotics or even eye drops can help treat these symptoms. If you suspect you may have bacterial conjunctivitis, please contact your eye care professional.
Cataracts are the leading cause of treatable blindness around the world. This condition usually develops as a side effect of the aging process. However, studies have shown the risk of developing the condition can increase if you smoke, have diabetes, or expose your eyes to high levels of UV light. For most people, your cataract’s impact on your daily life can be minimized using glasses or contact lenses. However, the only cure for cataracts is cataract surgery.