Our eye health and our vision can change from year to year. But some eye problems are more important to address than others, for your overall health and your ability to see clearly. But don’t worry. We’ll go over a few of the most common eye health problems and what you can do to help protect your vision.
Eye health is always important, but it is especially important as we age. Younger eyes might have seemed invincible, but a slowly changing prescription strength, reading glasses, or low-light difficulties are just a few reminders that our bodies change over time. While these changes are normal, other eye problems are worth noticing because they can indicate more serious conditions.
Talk to your vision professional or doctor if you are experiencing any of the following eye problems:
- Eye pain
- A sudden change in vision
- Noticeable, excess glare
- Gradual increase in haziness of your central or overall vision
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- A blurred or blind spot in the center of your field of vision
Your eye doctor can help you identify potential causes and start the appropriate care to help keep your vision as clear as possible. To help you understand how these diseases can affect your life, we’ve created an Eye Disease Simulator. Read on to learn more about each problem.
The most common vision problems — glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — affect millions of people every year. Most have treatment or prevention options. Use this guide to make sure you can catch the warning signs of these common eye problems early.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which pressure builds up inside your eye until it damages your optic nerve and retina which can cause severe vision problems. While not curable, glaucoma can be easy to detect and manage in the early stages with regular, annual eye exams.
Symptoms associated with glaucoma can include: eye pain (with or without nausea), sudden vision changes, and halos around lights. If you experience any of these, you should see your vision professional immediately. Pay attention to your eye health, particularly if you have risk factors such as: a family history of Glaucoma, diabetes, previous eye surgery or injury, high blood pressure, or very severe nearsightedness.
Cataracts are a condition that clouds the lenses in your eyes. It is the most common cause of vision loss in those over 40, affecting millions every year — more than glaucoma, AMD and diabetic retinopathy combined! To help protect your eyes from developing cataracts, it’s important to avoid or minimize exposure to UV light and cigarette smoke. Eating foods rich in antioxidants with an emphasis on maintaining healthy blood sugar levels — even if you do not have diabetes — can also help reduce cataracts from developing in the first place.
Cataracts cause slow progressing vision changes that can eventually lead to vision loss. Thankfully, if cataracts do develop, we live in a time where they can be treated with outpatient eye surgery. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy fix. Gradually blurring vision can affect your lifestyle long before surgery would be an option, so prevention is often the best medicine.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a progressive eye condition that affects the macula of your eye. That’s a small part of the retina directly at the back of your eyes. It is crucial for clear and high detail, central vision. Early AMD symptoms include dimming of central vision, distortion of letters, and difficulty seeing contrast. As soon as you notice these signs — especially if they occur quickly — see your vision professional.
Treatments for AMD are meant to minimize the effects of the disease, but there is no cure. This is why it is important to get regular eye exams and take care of your overall health. AMD is strongly affected by lifestyle, so how you take care of your body can help prevent you from developing it in the first place.
Vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of developing AMD; eating a diet full of lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc can help prevent you from developing it in the first place. Family history also plays a role, as well as risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. Ask your eye doctor if a genetic test can determine if you have a higher-than-normal risk for AMD.
Diabetic retinopathy is another eye problem that affects many with diabetes as they age. Inflammation and poor blood flow caused by the diabetes can cause blood vessels in your eyes to swell and leak fluid. Over time, this can affect vision and cause blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is considered a long-term side effect of diabetes is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes. That means it is crucial that you manage your diabetes properly and keep blood sugar levels low. If you do not have diabetes, manage your overall health to avoid this disease altogether, if possible. Your eyesight will thank you!
Your eye health is something you can support with good daily habits. Just like brushing your teeth daily, there are a few things you can do to keep your vision the best it can be.
If you wear glasses, ask your eye doctor for care recommendations to keep the lenses clean and scratch-free. Contact-lens wearers can help protect themselves from illnesses like colds and flu by making sure they wash their hands every time they put in or take out their contacts.
Another healthy daily habit is to reduce or limit the amount of time you spend looking at a screen, especially in the last few hours before sleep. Late-night screen time has not been shown to damage your vision, but it can lead to eye strain. And stopping early can help with a good night’s rest, which is incredibly important for your immune system and body health.
Whole-body health is also connected to better eye health. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a diet full of antioxidants and vitamins A, C, D and E are both known for improving your overall health — as well as your eye health.
Whether you need vision correction or not, annual eye exams can help you catch any potential eye problems early . These routine exams are especially important if you have certain risk factors mentioned above, like diabetes. While your eye doctor will check your vision, you can also have other screenings for the conditions we have mentioned, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Eye problems aren’t always preventable, but with a few of these tips and regular eye exams, you can go a long way to spotting problems early.
Vision insurance benefits can help your eyes stay healthy year-round by providing you with access to annual eye exams and potential preventative care before eye problems become more serious. Benefits vary, so check out which VSP Individual Vision Insurance plans are available to you in your area.
This blog was reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Chinn. Dr. Chinn is the co-owner owner of Dr. Chinn’s Vision Care in San Diego, CA. She shares information about eye health on her popular Instagram account @dr.chinnchinn