There are hundreds of different eye diseases and vision problems. Some have no cure, but many others are treatable. You can assist in your own eye health by following a healthy lifestyle and seeing your eye care professional on a regular basis and any time your vision changes.
More than 3.4 million people in the U.S. age 40 and older meet the definition of “legal blindness” (visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better-seeing eye or visual field of 20 degrees or less) or have corrected vision (visual acuity of 20/40 or less), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 7% of U.S. children under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with an eye disease or condition. Nearly 3% of children under 18 are blind or whose vision is impaired. Vision loss is among the top 10 causes of disability in the U.S in adults over the age of 18 and one of the most common disabling conditions in children.
The good news is that it’s never too late to start taking care of your eye health. Regular eye health appointments and eye exams can lead to early diagnosis. This is key to correcting or slowing most eye conditions. Always see your eye care professional if your vision problem lasts for more than a few days or worsens.
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The four most common eye conditions leading to loss of vision or blindness are:
However, there are hundreds of different eye diseases and disorders.
Macular degeneration (also called age-related macular degeneration or AMD) is an eye disease that affects your central vision. It damages the macula, which is the center area of your retina that allows you to see fine details. It’s the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60.
Macular degeneration can either be wet or dry. Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and leak blood and fluid. This damages the macula and leads to loss of central vision. Dry AMD results in the thinning of the macula, which blurs your central vision over time. Dry AMD is more common than the wet form, accounting for 70% to 90% of cases.
Symptoms of AMD, which usually aren’t noticed until the disease has progressed, include:
Although there is no cure, treatment can slow the progress of disease or prevent severe vision loss. Recent advances have been made in the treatment of wet AMD using intraocular injections of anti-VEGF medications.
A cataract is a clouding of your eye’s lens. This cloudy lens can develop in one or both eyes. Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness. In the U.S., cataracts is the leading cause of reversible vision loss. Cataracts can occur at any age and even be present at birth, but are more common in people over the age of 50.
Symptoms of a cataract include:
Surgery to remove and replace the cloudy lens with an artificial lens is highly successful with more than 90% of people seeing better after cataract removal.
Diabetes-related retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It’s one of the leading causes of blindness in adults in the U.S.
Diabetes-related retinopathy is a disease in which there’s ongoing damage to blood vessels in the retina due to long-term unmanaged high sugar (glucose) levels in your blood. Your retina is the light-sensitive tissue in your eye that is needed for clear vision. Most people with diabetes-related retinopathy show no vision changes until the disease is severe. In others, symptoms come and go.
Treatments include injections of a specific type of medication and surgery that addresses repairing or shrinking blood vessels in the retina.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that results from higher-than-normal fluid pressure in the eye. The pressure damages your optic nerve, which affects how visual information is transmitted to your brain. Undetected and untreated glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness in one or both eyes. Glaucoma often runs in families.
There are two main types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly over time and you may not notice vision change until the disease is far along. Closed-angle glaucoma can happen suddenly. It’s painful and causes loss of vision very quickly.
Treatments focus on reducing eye pressure and include prescription eye drops, laser therapy and surgery.
Retinal detachment is a separation or detachment of the retina from its underlying tissues that hold it in place within your eye. This is a serious eye condition that can lead to blindness if not treated.
You may or may not have symptoms, depending on the severity of the detachment. Symptoms include:
Treatments include laser therapy or different surgical approaches to seal or close the retinal tear and reattach the retina.
Eye conditions commonly seen in children include:
Refractive eye problems cause you to have issues with focus. Light is improperly bent as it passes through your cornea and lens. These refractive errors are the most common eye problems in the U.S. Refractive errors include nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and distorted vision at all distances (astigmatism). These eye conditions can be helped with eyeglasses, contacts or surgery.
Presbyopia is the inability to focus over a range of vision. It’s often confused with farsightedness, but they are not the same conditions. Presbyopia is a natural loss of flexibility of the lens that comes with age. Farsightedness is an abnormal short eye shape that causes light to bend incorrectly after it enters the eye. Presbyopia is treated with corrective lenses (“cheater” eyeglasses).
Eye floaters are clumps or deposits that float in your eye’s vitreous fluid (the clear, jelly-like substance in the middle of your eye). Floaters appear as spots or specks that float by in your field of vision. They are usually harmless, but if they appear suddenly and are joined by other symptoms, such as flashes of light or partial loss of side vision, they can be a sign of a more serious eye condition, such as retinal detachment.
Dry eye happens when your tear glands can’t make enough tears or produce low quality tears and can’t adequately lubricate the surface of your eyes. Treatments include artificial tears or tear duct plugs to prevent tear drainage.
Eye tearing happens when your eyes produce more tears than can be drained. This can be from sensitivity to climate elements like wind, sun and temperature changes or to an eye infection or a blocked tear duct.
Yes, genetic factors can play a role in many kinds of eye disease, some of which are leading causes of blindness in infants, children and adults. More than 60% of cases of blindness among infants are caused by inherited eye diseases, including:
There is also strong evidence that strabismus (ocular misalignment) has a genetic link. A family history is seen in about one-third of cases. In adults, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration appear to be inherited in a large portion of cases. Researchers have made significant progress in identifying the genes that cause retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease of the retina that causes night blindness and gradual vision loss. More recently, gene therapy has been used to treat a form of retinitis pigmentosa of early childhood onset.
Researchers now have evidence that some of the most common vision problems among children and adults are genetically determined. These eye problems include:
There’s a lot you can do to protect your vision. Recommendations include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Having good vision helps you interact with the world around you. Some vision problems can be easily corrected. Some can’t be cured. However, if detected early and treated, many eye diseases can be corrected or the disease process slowed so your vision loss can be reduced. If you notice any changes in your vision, see your eye care professional. Even if you don’t have noticeable changes in your vision, it’s important to have regularly scheduled eye exams. Some vision problems have no early warning signs. Your eye care professional can perform the needed tests and prescribe eyewear, medications or perform surgery to slow or reduce vision loss and help you see your best.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/14/2022.
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