Eye conditions & symptoms 16 min read

A guide to the causes and symptoms of common eye conditions

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World Glaucoma Week started on 10th March, and will run until 16th March. The annual event helps to create better awareness about glaucoma, as well as emphasising the importance of having regular eye examinations to pick up on such eye conditions.

World Glaucoma Week is the perfect opportunity to remind you to make your next eye examination appointment, or even just check your eyes for any changes either in appearance or in your vision.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent blinding disease, because it can progress so gradually before resulting in visual damage, which is mostly irreversible once it occurs. 

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness around the world, and while there is no cure, early detection can prevent progression towards severe visual problems or blindness.

With that in mind, it’s crucial to remember how important your regular eye examinations are. As it’s World Glaucoma Week, we will talk you through some of the most common eye conditions and what to look out for ahead of your next appointment.

Glaucoma is caused by an increase in pressure inside the eye, which occurs when the fluid in the eyeball fails to properly drain. In some cases, it can lead to the optic nerve or nerve fibres of the retina becoming damaged.

There are 4 types of glaucoma

Chronic open-angle glaucoma is most prevalent and has a gradual progression; because of this, symptoms aren’t usually noticeable. This type of glaucoma affects your peripheral vision first and before on setting in to the centre, so it is important to be aware of any visual changes you notice, even if it is just in your peripheral vision.

Primary angle-closure glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma and develops much faster with a rapid increase of pressure. Symptoms often include excessive eye pain, redness, headaches, tenderness, seeing halos around lights, misty vision and rapid vision loss.

Secondary glaucoma usually occurs as a result of another eye injury or problem.

Developmental, or congenital, glaucoma is another rare type that is found in young children. This usually occurs due to some sort of irregularity, with symptoms including eye expansion, photophobia, cloudy or watery eyes and irregular eye movement.

Contributing factors of developing glaucoma includes myopia, genetics and age. If you have myopia, you are older, your family members have had it or if you are of Afro-Caribbean descent you are at a higher risk to develop glaucoma. It is important to have regular eye examinations to allow early detection and management.

the difference between a healthy eye and an eye with glaucoma

Cataracts

Cataracts mainly develop in those who are 65 or older; they are a by-product of the ageing process and as such they are very common. Cataracts are caused by the lens of the eye gradually becoming cloudy and losing transparency.

Cataracts can often go unnoticed because vision can deteriorate so slowly. Some of the signs include blurry or cloudy vision, faded colours, double vision or experiencing a halo effect when looking at lights.

Ageing is the primary cause, but there are other risk factors to be aware of. This includes genetics; if you have a family history of cataracts, you are at higher risk. Your lifestyle may also play a part; excessive alcohol, poor diet or exposure to sunlight, UV light is one of the leading factors of cataracts. By making yourself aware of these factors your can help lower your risks of developing cataracts.

Diagnosis of cataracts usually occurs at your normal eye examinations, as your optician can pick up on its development and can take corrective measures.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

explaining macular degeneration

The macula is a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye and is responsible for your central vision.

AMD will cause you to lose your central vision, but does not affect your peripheral vision. It is a painless experience, but your vision will become increasingly blurred and can make everyday activities difficult.

There are 2 types of AMD

Dry AMD can develop over many years and occurs when the macula’s cells become damaged by tiny deposits made up of cholesterol, protein and fats. It is less serious than wet AMD and accounts for around 90% of AMD cases. It could take between 5-10 years before your vision loss significantly affects your day-to-day life, which can mean AMD goes undiagnosed for some time.

Wet AMD, also known as neovascular AMD, is more serious. This occurs when new, abnormally-formed blood vessels grow under the macula. They can leak blood or other fluid which damages the cells, and it can happen quite suddenly.

The signs and symptoms of AMD include less vibrant colours, diminished contrast between objects, and even visual distortions and sometimes hallucinations.

The cause for AMD is currently unknown. It has been linked with genetics, smoking, diet and Blue-Violet light. AMD is usually noticed by your optometrist.

Conjuctivitis

Conjunctivitis is another common eye condition that you may have come across before.

There are 3 types of conjunctivitis

Infective which happens as a result of an infection, allergic which occurs due to an exposure to an allergen and irritant which may occur when an irritant substance enters the eye.

The main symptoms of conjunctivitis are often easy to recognise, such as red or watery eyes. You could also experience a burning sensation, feeling of grit in your eye or a sticky substance on your eyelashes.

You are at a higher risk of developing conjunctivitis if you have diabetes, an infection in your upper respiratory track, or being particularly young or old. This is because each of these can lead to a weakened immune system.

Looking after your eyes 

One of the easiest and most straightforward ways of recognising problems with your vision or eyes is by attending regular eye examinations. Find your local optician and don’t miss your appointment! If you notice a change in your vision, see your optician sooner.

Although some eye conditions can’t be prevented, identifying them early can ensure you receive proper care, treatment and management.