Amblyopia (Lazy Eye): Typically appearing within the first seven years of a child’s life, amblyopia is a vision disorder that occurs when the brain develops the habit of favoring one eye’s sight over the other’s. As a result, the visual system within the brain does not develop properly, causing information received from the neglected eye to be ignored altogether; the child’s vision becomes unbalanced, which can lead to numerous problems later in life if left unchecked.
Once amblyopia has been diagnosed, treatment is often provided by way of the child wearing a patch over his dominant eye for a period of time. This correction method balances the visual system by forcing the brain to rely on the vision of the eye it had previously been ignoring.
Astigmatism: Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is shaped like a football (more curved in one direction than the other) and often occurs with nearsightedness or farsightedness. This causes light to focus in more than one point on the retina, resulting in blurry and distorted vision.
Blepharitis: A fairly common disorder of the eyelids in children and adults alike, blepharitis can cause itching, burning, redness, and swelling of the eyes, as well as a crusting over the eyelids’ outer rims (usually experienced when waking up). Typically it is caused by various systemic disorders or skin problems, but it can also arise as a result of allergies.
There is no cure for blepharitis, but regular cleaning of the eyelids, or the application of antibiotics in more severe cases, can usually manage it.
Cataracts: A cataract is a vision problem caused by a clouding of the eye’s lens. The most common type is related to aging. More than half of the American population ages 60 and older have cataracts.
What is the lens?
The lens is the part of the eye that helps focus light on the retina. In a normal eye, light passes through the lens and is focused on the retina. To help produce a clear image, the lens must remain clear. The lens is made mostly of water and protein. As you age, the protein can clump together and start to cloud small areas of the lens that blocks light from reaching the retina, interfering with vision. This is a cataract.
In its early stages, a cataract may not cause a problem. However, over time the cataract may grow larger, making it harder to see. Because less light reaches the retina, your vision may become dull and blurry.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Between the inside of the eyelid and the white of the eye lies a transparent tissue called the conjunctiva, which serves to keep both the eyelid and the eye itself moist. When this tissue becomes inflamed or infected in one or both of a person’s eyes, the disorder is referred to as conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis can result from the presence of any number of irritants such as smoke, chemicals, dirt, dust, allergies, viruses, and bacteria; it is generally harmless if diagnosed properly during an early stage of its development. The proper treatment for conjunctivitis varies based on what it was caused by, but in most cases the problem is resolved by way of improved hygiene and the use of artificial tears.
Corneal Disease (Keratitis): Corneal disease is an eye condition which causes the cornea to become infected, inflamed, or diseased as a result of the surface of the eye being scratched or bacteria being present in the eye.
In severe cases, the condition may cause extreme pain, distort vision, or wear away at the cornea itself, though minor cases can typically be cured via the use of eye drops. Serious cases require more comprehensive medical attention to remedy the problem.
Diabetic Retinopathy: Exclusively experienced by those who already suffer from diabetes, diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels cause significant damage to the blood vessels within the retina of the eye. It is a progressive condition, getting worse as time goes on, and is best treated by preventive measures. Early detection is a key factor to minimizing the damage it could have on the eye. Should the condition progress unchecked, broken blood vessels can form scar tissue on the eye, which in time can be a serious threat to a person’s vision.
In relatively mild cases of diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment can be used to seal damaged blood vessels. More traditional surgical methods may need to be enlisted if the condition is severe.
Dry Eye Syndrome: Dry eye syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, locality, or race; it is most prevalent in post-menopausal women. The condition comes to exist due to a person’s tears becoming less abundant or less nourishing to the eye and eyelid. Symptoms are fairly ambiguous, resembling any number of other eye conditions, and include eye irritation, redness, sensitivity to light, and a feeling of something being caught in the eye. Due to the unassuming nature of the condition, it is often misdiagnosed as being nothing more than a case of temporary irritation.
Dry eye syndrome can occur for seemingly no reason, or it can present itself after usage of certain medications. Treatment methods commonly include the use of artificial tears and ointments, or a procedure that blocks the tear drainage ducts in the eyes.
Floaters: The back of the eye is filled with a thick substance called vitreous gel. As people grow older, this gel becomes less and less dense, assuming an increasingly liquid form. This process makes the gel less cohesive and allows for small particles of the substance to enter a person’s field of vision. When visible, these particles usually resemble dark specks or string-like objects, and are called floaters.
While the appearance of some floaters is to be expected as people grow older, sudden development of floaters (or a noticeable increase in their frequency and prevalence) could be a sign that a more serious condition, such as a retinal tear or vitreous hemorrhage, may have occurred.
Fuchs’ Dystrophy: A slow developing hereditary defect of the eyes, Fuchs’ dystrophy affects the innermost layer of the cornea and, when left untreated, can lead to markedly depleted eye function. Though signs of the condition can often be found in people as young as 30, Fuchs’ dystrophy rarely affects a person to a significant degree before they are at least 50 years old.
By damaging the cornea, the condition leads to swelling, which then leads to noticeable vision impairment. Treatment against the condition’s progress usually begins with the application of topical solutions and ointments, but surgery is occasionally necessary in more severe cases.
Glaucoma: A highly treatable but dangerous condition of the eye (when left untreated), glaucoma generally occurs when the eyes are not draining fluid properly, which causes pressure to increase within the eye, damaging the optic nerve. Most glaucoma cases grow in magnitude and severity over many years, which explains why this condition is so prevalent within the senior citizen population. However, a second and much more rare form of glaucoma, called angle-closure glaucoma, develops extremely rapidly within the eye and can alter a person’s vision at a startling pace.
Both forms of glaucoma are easily treated via laser therapy or the use of prescription eye drops, so seeking out medical assistance is always advisable in potential cases of the condition.
Herpes Zoster: More commonly referred to as shingles, herpes zoster is an infection of the skin that’s created by the same virus that leads to chickenpox. Once a person has been exposed to the virus, herpes zoster lies dormant for an indefinite period of time within several of the body’s nerve fibers. The virus may never become active, or it can be activated by any number of stimuli, such as stress, the process of aging, and the ingestion of some medications.
While a breakout of this infection can occur within the body without disturbing the eye, the eyelids may be affected if a nerve branch connected to the eye becomes involved. Should this happen, numerous problems can arise in the eye (ranging from conjunctivitis and scarring of the cornea to glaucoma and cataracts) which require immediate medical attention.
Hyperopia: Farsightedness (Hyperopia) occurs when the cornea is too flat in relation to the length of the eye. This causes light to focus at a point beyond the retina, resulting in blurry close vision and sometimes blurry distance vision as well.
Iritis: Though the condition occasionally occurs without a definable cause, iritis - an inflammation of the iris within the eye – typically becomes present as a result of a disease (such as psoriasis, sarcoidosis and spondylitis), an infection or infectious disease (like tuberculosis, syphilis or lyme disease), or a blunt trauma to the eye itself. Usually affecting only one eye, iritis can cause blurred vision, headaches, pain in or around the eye, and an increased sensitivity to light.
Proper medical intervention is always advisable in the case of iritis, as it will not only decrease pain in the eye, but also prevent further structural damage to the eye from occurring.
Keratoconus: The eye, and more specifically the cornea, is designed to assume and maintain a perfectly round shape. However, with keratoconus, the cornea (for unknown reasons) isn’t strong enough to maintain this round shape, which causes it to extend outward away from the eye, taking on a more cone-like shape.
Keratoconus usually begins to affect people under the age of 30 and slowly distorts vision until the cornea’s shape and structure stabilize themselves. Though certain surgical methods are effective in treating keratoconus when it reaches advanced stages, the use of contact lenses and glasses are generally the best way for a person with keratoconus to regain clear vision.
Macular Degeneration (ARMD): The most common cause of severe vision loss in persons over the age of 60, macular degeneration occurs when the macula, a small central portion of the retina, deteriorates. The condition rarely leads to absolute blindness, but it is commonly a source of considerable visual problems.
Macular degeneration presents itself in one of two forms; the more common of the two (dry form) is characterized by the development of unwanted yellow deposits in the macula, whereas the second (wet form) bases itself around the formation of abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula. Though the specific effects the two conditions have upon the structural integrity of the retina are different, both can lead to the loss of central vision - this loss can be permanent in the case of wet form degeneration. The use of vitamins, medications, and laser therapies are the most effective means of combating macular degeneration.
Myopia: Nearsightedness (Myopia) occurs when the cornea is too curved or the eye is too long. This causes light to focus in front of the retina, resulting in blurry distance vision.
Nevus: A nevus is a freckle on or within the eye, usually on the iris, conjunctiva or choroid (the layer directly behind the retina). Nevi are typically flat, and in most cases don’t change or grow as time goes on. For this reason, a nevus is usually a relatively manageable eye condition.
Any diagnosed nevi should be observed frequently by an eye care professional to make sure that they are not growing in size or changing in any other way. Though this is a fairly rare occurrence, nevi can become dangerous to both vision and general health if they begin to grow beyond their original size. Should an eye doctor find that a nevus’ overall structure is changing, he/she may find it necessary to retrieve a tissue sample from the nevus to make certain that it is not cancerous.
Pinguecula: A pinguecula is a common, non-threatening lesion that grows within the mucous membrane that lines the outer edge of the eyeball and the underside of the eyelid. Pingueculas grow slowly over many years, and their existence is generally attributed to overexposure to wind and sunlight (this condition is a notable occupational hazard of welders). br>
A pinguecula is typically treated via the use of artificial tears to decrease dryness. Sunglasses are also effective in preventing further growth of the condition.
Presbyopia: Presbyopia is the natural aging process of the eye that affects everyone, usually starting around age 40. As we age, the natural lens in our eye loses flexibility, thereby decreasing the ability to focus on things up-close creating the need for reading glasses, bifocals or even trifocals. Presbyopia is unlike nearsightedness and farsightedness, which are related to the length of your eye, and cannot be corrected by LASIK. However, Paradise Valley Eye Specialists and Horizon Laser Vision Center offer alternative options to reading glasses including CK, MonoVision LASIK and Multifocal Intraocular Lenses (IOLs).
Pterygium: A pterygium is a wedge-shaped growth on the eye that develops due to overexposure to the sun and can cause warping of the cornea or the development of an abnormal astigmatism. Though it’s not extremely dangerous when modestly sized, a large pterygium can block light entering the eye and could also lead to vision loss.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem; however, wearing UV-protective sunglasses while exposed to the sun can prevent this condition.
Ptosis: Though it is not a particularly dangerous condition, ptosis can be incredibly bothersome. The condition is characterized by one or both of a person’s eyelids drooping down over their eyes. This can be due to aging, a physical trauma, neurological disorders, or as an unexpected side effect of the prolonged/improper usage of contact lenses.
Mild cases generally require no medical intervention, but if the condition blocks vision, surgical treatments may be pursued to alleviate the problem.
Retinal Detachment: The retina is composed of two layers that work in conjunction with one another. However, should these two layers become detached from one another and from the wall of the eye, the retina ceases to operate properly. This condition is referred to as a retinal detachment. Those suffering from the disorder often notice several changes to their vision, such as a sudden influx of floaters, erratic flashes of light, and/or the loss of peripheral and central vision.
Vision loss is a common side effect of a retinal detachment. This impairment can be mild or severe, and can even lead to complete blindness, so immediate medical attention is crucial to recovery. Effective treatment of retinal detachment typically involves surgery.
Strabismus: Strabismus is a disorder in which a person’s eyes do not work in unison with one another. This causes the eyes to point in different directions when trying to focus on the same object. Usually strabismus begins in early childhood, though it can be developed later in life as a side effect of damage to the eye or blood vessels (a stroke commonly has this effect).
Treatment options for strabismus are similar to those of amblyopia, and typically involve the use of glasses or an eye patch. Drug treatments, eye therapy, and surgery can also be used in more severe cases.
Stye (External Hordeolum): An infection of the eyelid, a stye can be a painful and bothersome condition. Originating in the oil glands that exist along the edge of the eyelid (surrounding the bases of the eyelashes), styes typically begin as a red, sore, and fairly firm bump, which grows to its peak size in a relatively short period of time (usually just a few days).
Soaking the eyelids with warm water can be effective in speeding the healing process, though a stye will usually rupture and heal on its own within a week or two of its initial appearance. A stye is similar in composition and effect to two other eye conditions, internal hordeolums and chalazions, though styes typically take less time to heal.
Subconjunctival Hemorrhage: Referring to the rupturing of one or more blood vessels within the white of the eye, a subconjunctival hemorrhage can occur as a result of impact trauma or internal pressure. Subconjunctival hemorrhaging looks very much like other causes of redness in the eye and should not be confused with them.
Though it is generally a benign condition that will resolve on its own, an afflicted party should still consult with an eye doctor to make certain that a more serious condition is not occurring within the eye.