Overview – What is it?
An eye problem is a condition or disease that affects the eye and can lead to vision impairment or even blindness, if not corrected. Some common eye problems include cataracts, glaucoma and keratoconus. Age, smoking, excessive use of alcohol, and using certain medications are some of the causes of eye problems.
Some of the symptoms for eye problems to be aware of include sensitivity to light, colour blindness, and difficulty seeing at certain times such as during the night.
Having your eyes examined by a professional is one way of getting a diagnosis for an eye problem. In situations where the eye problem may be caused by another health problem, tests are done to determine what the exact cause is. For example, a diabetes test may be carried out because diabetes is a known, major cause of eye problems.
What eye treatment is suitable depends on which eye problem a person is suffering from.
Many eye problems can be prevented by eating healthy, remaining active, maintaining a healthy weight, and protecting one’s eyes from factors that can cause them harm.
Causes – What causes it?
Eye problems can be caused by many factors, including:
Other health conditions can also cause eye problems. These conditions include diabetes and tuberculosis.
- Viral Infections, such as herpes, can cause an ulceration of the cornea which causes pores and sores on the cornea.
- Fungal infections like candidiasis.
- Bacterial infections such as bacterial keratitis that can cause conjunctivitis.
Some of the factors that increase the risk for a person to get eye problems include:
- Age: People in their 40’s and 50’s are more likely to develop vision problems because as people age, the risk of eye-related conditions increases.
- Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol: Tobacco and alcohol abuse are major risk factors for eye problems. Smoking increases the risk of age- related macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts, among other eye problems.
- Family history: If you have a family member(s) with eye problems, then the risk of getting the same problem is increased due to heredity factors.
- Genetic factors: Changes in gene functions can also raise the risk of a person getting eye problems.
- Poor nutrition: A diet that is low in vegetables and fruits and other healthy foods increases the risk of getting eye problems.
- Obesity: Being obese raises the risk for a person to develop high blood pressure which, in turn, can damage the blood vessels in the retina.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar can cause the lens to swell, leading to a distorted eye vision, or can cause diabetic retinopathy which damages the retina and can lead to blindness.
- Exposure to sunlight for long periods can lead to the formation of molecules associated with aging and which can cause damage to the eye.
- Injuries: A person who has had a previous eye injury or has had eye surgery has an increased risk of getting eye problems such as cataracts.
- Wearing contact lenses excessively: Wearing contact lenses for long and not cleaning or replacing them as instructed by an eye specialist, increases the risk for eye problems.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
The symptoms may vary for different eye problems. However, there are some common symptoms which include:
- Having difficulty seeing clearly at certain times, such as at night (night blindness),
- Double vision (images that overlap),
- Sensitivity to light,
- Not being able to tell colours (colour blindness),
- Itchiness and burning eyes,
- Swollen eyelids,
- Eye fatigue,
- Difficulty focusing,
- Headache or eyebrow ache,
- Dry or watery eyes, and
- Pain in or around the eye.
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
A check up by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) which examines the following, will help diagnose the problem:
- Neurological exam: This is done to test your behaviour, motor abilities and mental function to diagnose the condition and determine which type of epilepsy you have.
Types of seizures
- the symptoms the patient is experiencing,
- the medical and family history of the patient, and
- the appearance of the eye.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
- Taking medication to deal with any infections that can lead to eye problems, such as taking antibiotics for bacterial infections.
- Surgery to correct some eye conditions like cataracts and glaucoma.
- Taking medication as recommended, such as eye drops to stop itching.
- Treating diseases like diabetes, which can lead to eye problems like diabetic retinopathy.
- Using corrective glasses or contact lenses.
- Laser treatment that uses a laser beam to correct conditions affecting the cornea.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
To prevent yourself from getting an eye problem, you should do the following:
- Getting regular check-ups, not only for the eye, but also for diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure that can lead to eye problems.
- Finding out whether you are at a high risk of getting eye diseases.
- Being alert to any changes in your eyes.
- Ensuring you maintain a healthy and balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and fish which reduces the risk of developing macular degeneration. Avoid foods rich in fats and sugars.
- Ensuring you exercise frequently.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Not smoking.
- Avoiding excessive use of alcohol.
- Wearing protective gear, for example, when doing jobs that can lead to eye injuries like firefighting, welding or when out in the sun.