Care, Protection and Disorders of the Eye

A person's eyes give them the ability to see the people and the world around them. But good vision is not a guarantee. There are numerous diseases, injuries and eye conditions that may cause a person to lose part or all of their eyesight. Often, many of these conditions can be prevented or treated if the eyes receive the proper care. Unfortunately, the eyes and good vision are frequently taken for granted. This neglect may be caused by a lack of understanding eye health and the importance of preventative care.

The Importance of Eye Examinations

An eye examination is one of the most important things that a person can do to care for his or her eyes. That's because many eye conditions are best treated when they are in their early stages. An eye examination allows the eye doctor to discover and begin treatment of potential or developing problems before they reach a damaging level. An eye examination involves numerous tests, such as an eye pressure test for glaucoma, a vision test, and dilation. Dilating the pupils allows the doctor to check the optic nerve, retina and macula. Eye care professionals generally recommend that adults with healthy eyes have a dilated exam every one to three years. If a person is being treated for an eye condition, or has a health issue such as diabetes, more frequent check-ups will be necessary.

  • Eye Exam – Why It's Done – A Mayo Clinic article about the reasons for eye examinations. This article discusses the importance of eye exams for different age groups, as well as when an exam is necessary.
  • Comprehensive Eye and Vision Examination – An American Optometric Association web page that explains the link between eye exams and preserving good eyesight. This article discusses various facets of eye examinations such preliminary testing and supplemental testing.
  • Eye Med: Eye Care is Important for the Entire Family – An article that talks about the benefits of eye care. Visitors can find information about benefits for all different age groups.

Common Disorders of the Eye

Refractive error, cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are all very common disorders of the eye. Refractive error is a condition in which the light does not focus properly in the eye and causes blurring. People who wear glasses all typically have some form of refractive error. There are several different types, each causing a person to see differently. Presbyopia causes people to have difficulty focusing on objects up close. It typically occurs in people as they age. Hyperopia is another term for farsightedness. This is when people can see clearly at a distance, but blurry up close. Myopia is the opposite of hyperopia. Also known as nearsightedness, it is a condition when a person can see clearer up close, but has blurred vision at a distance. Astigmatism is another form of refractive error. With astigmatism, the shape of the cornea is irregular, which causes blurring because light does not focus properly on the retina.

A cataract is a very common eye disorder in which the lens that is inside the eye becomes clouded and less flexible. This clouding makes it hard for light to pass through the lens. As a result, the vision is less clear, brighter lights are needed for reading, night vision diminishes and halos may appear around lights. Cataracts typically form with age, but they may also be caused by other factors, such as smoking. Excess exposure to the sun and ultraviolet rays also raise the risk of cataracts. Cataracts are treated by cataract surgery, in which an artificial lens replaces the natural, clouded one.

When there is increased pressure in the eye, it causes a condition known as glaucoma. This increased pressure is the result of a build-up of fluids within the eye. The pressure can damage the optic nerve over time if left untreated. Because there is no pain, a person may not be aware that they are suffering from glaucoma until the damage has occurred. Glaucoma will cause a person to lose peripheral vision, have an increased sensitivity to light, problems with glare, as well as blurry vision.

Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula begins to degenerate. This is a problem because the macula provides detailed central vision. As a result, a person will begin to lose central vision when looking straight ahead and colors may seem faded. Macular degeneration may be wet or dry. The most common form is dry. It is slower to cause vision loss, and it affects roughly 90 percent of people who have macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration is less common and more serious than its dry counterpart. It is called wet because blood vessels that are abnormal and weak begin to grow under the macula. These fragile vessels leak and cause the macula to swell. People at the greatest risk for macular degeneration includes women, people who are over 50, people who smoke, and people with family members who have had macular degeneration.

  • Vision Health Initiative: Common Eye Disorders – A Centers for Disease Control article about common eye problems. Macular degeneration, cataracts and refractive errors are among the diseases listed and explained.
  • Common Eye Conditions – A list of eye-related problems. This article covers issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, pink eye, and blurred vision.
  • Common Eye Diseases and Disorders – A short list of eye disorders, hosted by the University of Washington. Examples include glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Wexner Medical Center: Eye Disorders – An Ohio State University web page that explains a variety of eye disorders. The page is a large list that includes examples ranging from Amblyopia to Uveitis.
  • Net Wellness - Eye Disease: Are You At Risk? - A University of Cincinnati article about eye disorders. This resource lists a number of disorders, as well as who is most likely to be affected.

Children and Eye Health

Eye health is particularly important when it comes to children. One reasons for this is because eyes play an important part in how children learn. In addition, certain conditions, if caught early enough, may be reversible. This is why it is important for parents to take their children for an eye exam before they enter school, or if the child begins to squint or behave as if he or she is having difficulty seeing an object. Children's eyes are also susceptible to injury. Care should be taken to select age appropriate toys that will not injure the eyes during play. Common eye problems in children include strabismus and amblyopia. Amblyopia is an eye condition in which the eyes cross, while amblyopia means that there is poor vision in one of the eyes.

How to Prevent Vision Loss

While eye examinations are critical when it comes to preventing vision loss, there are other steps that can be taken. Protecting the eyes, for example, will help reduce the chance of injuries that may result in loss of vision. Eye protection includes wearing protective goggle or shields while working or performing tasks that involve potential projectile objects. Protective eye wear should also always be worn when working around chemicals that might splash into the eyes. This type of gear should be worn whether on the job or working at home. Protective eye wear is also available for sports activities to prevent finger jabs, elbows or balls from hitting the eyes. When in the sun, sunglasses or hats with brims can prevent problems caused by the sun.

Lifestyle changes can also help to reduce the risk of vision loss. Foods that contain beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and vitamin E are all good for the eyes and can reduce the risk of, or slow down diseases such as macular degeneration. Colorful fruits, leafy vegetables, and fish are all ideal food choices for healthy eyes. In addition to diet, people should also include regular exercise. The cessation of bad habits like smoking can also help prevent a decrease in vision.

  • Take Steps to Keep Your Sight – An article from the NIHMedline Plus magazine that focuses on warning people not to skip eye examinations. Contains interesting facts and ways that people can prevent health problems with their eyes. The article includes a section that lists three ways that people can keep their sight.
  • Healthy Habits Promote Good Vision – A Vision First Foundation document that lists eight healthy habits for healthy eyes and good vision.
  • Vision Loss Is Not a Normal Part of Aging - A document that provides information on how people can keep their eyes healthy. It also discusses normal changes in vision as well as common causes of vision loss and some of the warning signs.
  • Why Is Vision Health Important? - An article about preventative eye care that includes a bulleted listing of eye care tips. The article also discusses eye strain and provides helpful tips to avoid it.