Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., affects between 3 and 4 million Americans. This includes an estimated 1.5 to 2 million people who do not even know that they have glaucoma. The disease is caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye as a result of it not draining properly. This increase in pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause vision to fade. It most often occurs in people over age 40. If you're African American, have a family history of glaucoma, are very nearsighted or diabetic, you are at higher risk of developing the disease. The most common type of glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly, often without symptoms for a long time.
While glaucoma is not preventable or curable, it can be slowed. The earlier glaucoma is detected, the less damage it can cause and the longer you will have your vision.
- gradual loss of peripheral vision (at the sides of what you see)
- blurred vision
Glaucoma can be treated with medication (usually given in eye drops), surgery, or, in some cases, both. These treatments work by helping to drain excess fluid from the eye and/or decreasing the amount of fluid the eye produces.
A cataract is a clouding of all or part of the normally clear lens within your eye. More than 20.5 million Americans over age forty are affected with this disease. This clouding results in blurred or distorted vision. Cataracts are usually found in people over age 55, but occasionally younger people can get them.
- cloudy or blurry vision
- colors that seem faded
- poor night vision
- double or multiple vision (this symptom often goes away as the cataract grows)
- frequent changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses
A cataract does not need to be removed unless your vision loss interferes with everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. You and your eye care professional can make that decision together. When cataracts are small, you can often improve your vision by using different eyeglasses, magnifying lenses, or stronger lighting. If the condition does not improve, surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a substitute lens is the only effective treatment.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness in America. It is most common in older people ages 75-80. It results from changes to the macula, (a portion of the retina at the back of the eye), which is responsible for clear, sharp vision. Macular degeneration results from changes to the macula, (a portion of the retina at the back of the eye), which is responsible for clear, sharp vision.
- a gradual loss of the ability to see objects clearly
- distorted vision
- a gradual loss of color vision
- dark or empty areas appearing in the center of vision
Successful laser surgery may prevent central vision loss from becoming worse, even though normal vision may not be restored. Another option to treat macular degeneration is prescribed low vision devices such as telescopic and microscopic lenses that make the most out of remaining vision.
We have only mentioned some of the most common eye diseases. These and others can often be found early by an eye care specialist. That is why the Vision Council of America recommends regular comprehensive eye exams for good eye health.