What Steps Can You Take to Avoid the Most Common Eye Diseases?
Preventative care is essential for your overall health, but what can you do for your eyes? Learn how to avoid some of the most common eye diseases and slow any potential harm they may cause.
There are simple steps you can take to avoid and hopefully prevent some of the most common eye diseases. We’ll let you know those steps as well as the types of eye disease they help fight against.
Read on for more information on how to protect your eyes.
The Most Common Eye Diseases From A to Z
You can’t keep your eyes safe without knowing the threats to them. What follows is our exhaustive collection of the major eye diseases.
Also known as “lazy eye,” this condition occurs when the brain does not work together with the eyes. The brain favors one eye, and the vision in the other eye is reduced.
Amblyopia is treatable if detected early in childhood.
Signs of blepharitis include swollen, red eyelids and crusty debris on your eyelashes.
One of the easiest ways to avoid blepharitis is good hygiene.
Cataracts are one of the many age-related eye conditions. A cataract clouds the lens of your eye, fogging your vision and giving light a halo effect.
Surgery can correct cataracts, and it is a safe treatment. But the ways to prevent early cataracts are to wear UV-blocking lenses, avoid smoking, stay at a healthy weight, and manage diabetes and blood pressure.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Retinitis
This is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the retina and can lead to blindness. CMV retinitis affects people who have had damage to their immune system. People with HIV and AIDS have a higher risk of this disease.
There are two types of conjunctivitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and infectious conjunctivitis. “Pink eye” is a common nickname for both.
Allergic conjunctivitis results from your eyes interacting with substances in the environment like pollen, mold, and pet dander. You can prevent it by using eye drops, avoiding allergic triggers, and taking antihistamines after exposure.
The infections that cause infectious conjunctivitis can come from the common cold, a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, and fungus called ocular histoplasmosis syndrome.
Blepharitis is also a type of infectious conjunctivitis. Preventative measures mostly involve practicing good hygiene, not sharing objects like goggles and towels, and replacing makeup and contacts regularly. Infectious conjunctivitis treatments include antibiotics, anti-parasitic drugs, and anti-fungal drugs.
General symptoms of conjunctivitis can include redness, soreness, puffy eyelids, burning eyes, and stringy or yellow discharge.
We mentioned the importance of good diabetes maintenance when talking about cataracts and other conditions. This advice only applies to diabetics. Diabetics need to be especially careful because the consequences of poor blood sugar maintenance can be disastrous for their eyes.
Uncontrolled diabetes can cause retinal swelling. Blood vessels can grow or leak, which leads to blurry vision, flashes, floaters, increased pressure, and eye pain.
Diabetics should visit an ophthalmologist yearly to get their eyes dilated and checked for retinopathy. Early detection in combination with good blood pressure and blood glucose levels can prevent blindness or slow vision loss.
Dry Eye Syndrome (DES)
DES is a chronic condition that comes from insufficient tear production. It also happens when tears are of poor quality.
Insufficient or poor quality tears are usually the result of age, comorbid medical problems, medication side effects, procedures like LASIK surgery, or, again, that pesky blepharitis. Women over 40 are especially susceptible to DES.
Dry Eye Syndrome is uncomfortable and usually occurs in both eyes. In addition to dryness, symptoms include redness, fatigue, blurry vision, grittiness, light sensitivity, stringy mucus, and the feeling that something is in your eye without being able to remove it.
To prevent against and reverse DES, wear protective eyewear in extreme environments, blink often, use eye drops or artificial tears without preservatives, and take frequent breaks from screen use.
Allergies can affect all parts of your body, and this is more of a broad category than a specific illness. But allergies are persistent and can be painful in the eyes, so they’re worth mentioning.
The symptoms of eye allergies include redness, itchiness, and watery eyes.
Floaters and Spots
Eye floaters come from undissolved gel material floating around the dissolved gel-like fluid in the back of the eye. They are usually harmless, but if you find you are experiencing a sudden increase in floaters or floaters that accompany flashes of light, you should see an eye doctor as soon as possible.
This is one of the most serious major eye diseases on this list. Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. Too much fluid can gravely damage the optic nerve. This process begins gradually and painlessly.
Glaucoma first damages your peripheral vision and then attacks your central vision. It can lead to a permanent loss of vision if not caught early enough. Thus, work with your eye doctor to monitor and control the pressure in your eyes.
Some of the effects of glaucoma include blind spots, tunnel vision, vomiting, nausea, blurry vision, eye pain, and redness.
You can’t always prevent glaucoma, as it’s often hereditary, but you can slow its spread through regular exercise, medical treatment, frequent eye exams, and, once again, good diabetes control.
Keratoconus causes your cornea to thin out and bulge forward, which creates an irregular cone-shape in your eyes.
Doctors can sometimes treat this condition with a cornea transplant or gas-permeable contacts.
Age plays a major factor in macular degeneration, even earning its own acronym. AMD, or age-related macular degeneration, is the leading cause of blindness in Americans 65 and older.
The macula is the center of the retina, and it’s comprised of many light-sensing cells which are essential to your central vision. AMD causes tissues in the macula to break down and blood vessels in the area to grow, which makes for a hard time recognizing faces, reading and driving.
The ways to avoid AMD include a healthy diet full of fish and leafy greens, regular exercise, tightly controlled cholesterol and blood pressure, and avoiding smoking and smoke-filled areas. Smokers are especially susceptible to AMD. So are Caucasians and people with a family history of the disease.
Speaking of blood pressure, the spread of it to your eyes is what causes ocular hypertension. In turn, ocular hypertension can lead to glaucoma and vision loss.
Pingueculae and Pterygia
These conditions are dangerous because they almost sound cool, as evidenced by their nickname, “Surfer’s Eye.” A pinguecula or pterygium is often nothing more than a harmless buildup of calcium, fat, or protein that gives the eye a yellow spot or fleshy tissue. But both can affect the vision if large enough.
Protective eyewear is the best way to combat these conditions. That way, you protect your eyes from UV rays, dust, and wind. You can also use eyedrops.
Ptosis is less a disease than a naturally occurring problem people are often born with, but it’s an eye condition nonetheless, so it gets a mention.
Ptosis is a droopy eyelid, and it can often be corrected with surgery.
Refraction refers to the way light bends to hit your retina, which your brain translates into vision. If this process includes any imperfections or interference, you get blurry vision.
Here are a few examples of different refractive errors.
This is when light rays fall unevenly on the surface of your retina. It’s occasionally (and incorrectly) called “a stigmatism” or “stigmatism.” Astigmatism can be correctable with laser and cataract surgery, the right pair of glasses, or contact lenses.
Another name for hyperopia is farsightedness. It happens as a result of light rays overreaching your retina. Hyperopia can cause headaches and eye strain, especially when reading.
The opposite of hyperopia is nearsightedness. Light rays fall short of the retina. Myopic vision requires correction, and it affects nearly one-third of people in the United States.
This is often age-related. People over 40 can suffer from light rays overreaching their retinae, and they have to strain and hold reading material at arm’s length to see it clearly.
To avoid and correct refractive errors, you should get eye exams every two years, except before age 18 and after age 65. During those years, your eye exams should be yearly.
This is one of the most urgent eye conditions. When your retina is detached, you need to see a doctor immediately to avoid permanent loss of vision.
This is a collection of inherited eye disorders that can cause loss of peripheral vision, loss of central vision, and night blindness.
A stye is the result of an infection on the eyelid. It appears as a painful red lump like a pimple or boil on the edge of your eyelid.
Styes are generally self-treatable. You can apply a warm compress to one regularly, or it will disappear on its own.
Uveitis, also known as chorioretinitis, appears scarier than a sty because it’s an inflammation of the eye’s middle layer. It displays as redness in the eye, and it’s often accompanied by blurry vision and generalized pain.
Common Sense Preventative Solutions
The alphabet of eye diseases is a wide spectrum. Not everyone responds to the same treatment. Some of these diseases are not preventable.
For instance, there’s a genetic component to glaucoma and diabetes, which is not an eye disease but can lead to several common eye diseases.
Age is another factor in many of these conditions, and there’s still no cure for aging.
All of these things noted, there are still some general guidelines you can follow to maximize the positive effects you can have on your eyes. Do your part in preventing eye diseases by following these steps.
1. Don’t Panic
Many types of eye diseases, like styes, can resolve themselves. Whatever you do, even if you’re in a dire emergency situation like retinal detachment, accompany your action with a level head.
Make an appointment with a doctor. Go to the emergency room if the situation is urgent. But worrying will not counteract your condition.
2. Get an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist
Speaking of the eye doctor, find yourself a good one. We have many. This leads us to our next piece of advice.
3. Get Regular Eye Exams
A good ophthalmologist can dilate your eyes yearly if you have diabetes. They can also perform less intrusive eye exams on a regular basis to monitor the pressure in your eyes as well as any degenerative conditions.
4. Practice Good Hygiene
So many of the major eye diseases are avoidable with good hygiene. Don’t share eyewear. Clean your hands and your contacts properly.
5. Protect Your eyes
When on a job site or in other harsh environments, wear protective eyewear. When you’re in the sun, eye protection means UV-blocking. The CDC recommends sunglasses that block 99-100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
6. Eat Right
Diets rich in leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids are especially easy on the eyes. Fish like tuna, salmon, and halibut are reliable sources of omega-3s.
7. Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, which we’ve seen is a major cause of many eye diseases. Exercise and weight control go a long way in preventing many of the most common types of eye disease.
8. Don’t Smoke
We hardly need to explain the health benefits of not smoking, but smoking is especially bad for your eyes. Quit if you can, and if you haven’t started smoking, don’t.
Awareness Is the First Step to Prevention
There are many threats to your vision and the health of your eyes. You now know many of them. But the picture you see of your vision doesn’t have to be bleak.
When you take common-sense steps to safeguard your health, protect your eyes, and check up on them regularly, your risk of the most common eye diseases drops significantly.
Practice these steps, and if you need more suggestions, check out our other eye health recommendations.