COMMON VISUAL PROBLEMS


MYOPIA
Myopia, also called “near-sightedness” or “short-sightedness”, is the most common refractive error and causes blurred distance vision. This is caused when the eyeball is either too long or the cornea has a too high curvature. Myopic patients may squint or strain their eyes to try and see objects such as the blackboard, TV and street signs.

HYPEROPIA
Hyperopia, also called “far-sightedness” or “long-sightedness”, causes blurred close vision. This is caused by the eyeball being to short or the cornea having a too low curvature. Hyperopic patients may suffer from headaches, aching and strained eyes, especially when doing close work such as reading and sewing.

ASTIGMATISM
Astigmatism is a very common refractive error as well, which can occur in combination with myopia and hyperopia. This is caused by a structural defect where the cornea’s curvature is not even in all meridians. In lay-mans terms it is when the cornea is shaped like a rugby ball instead of a soccer ball. Astigmatic patients may struggle to see both at distance and near, especially at night and with small print.

PRESBYOPIA
Presbyopia is the normal worsening of near vision with age. As middle age approaches, the eyes’ lens tends to thicken and lose flexibility, which results in the lens not being able to focus close up. Presbyopic patients often describe their problem as “their arms feeling to short”.

COMPUTER VISION SYMDROME
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is associated with long hours of computer work. Symptoms include tired, aching, red eyes; as well as headaches and dark circles under the eyes.
Simple steps to improve CVS:

  • Rest your eyes at regular intervals by changing focus into the distance
  • Blink your eyes regularly to decrease the changes of developing dry, red eyes. With increased concentration your blinking rate decreases automatically
  • Correct for any refraction error with spectacles to relieve eye strain
  • Try and cut down on reflections on the computer screen as this causes added eye strain. This can be achieved by adding an anti-reflective coating to spectacle lenses
  • Position the computer correctly. The screen should be at eye level

DRY EYE
Dry, irritated eyes can be cause by a number of reasons including ageing of the eye, medication, environmental factors and contact lens wear. Redness is the most common symptom related to dry eyes. Dry eyes can be prevented by consciously blinking more often (especially when doing visually strenuous activities such as watching TV or doing computer work), regulating humidity indoors, not smoking and drinking enough water. The most common treatment of dry eyes is the use of artificial tears.

EYE ALLERGIES
An allergy is when the body sees an abject as foreign and protects the body against it. In the eye the patient might suffer from itching, red eye with accompanied swollen eyelids and tearing; as the eye tries to flush the allergen out. The most common eye allergy is Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) resulting from pollen, dust, mold, cat and dog hair and other environmental factors. The best way to treat eye allergies is with pharmacological treatments.

EYE INFECTIONS
An eye infection is usually cause by a bacteria or virus. Common eye infections include bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye) and blepharitis (chronic inflammation of the eyelids due to infection) such as styes (infection of the oil glands along the edge of the eyelid that surround the base of an eyelash). Infections occur when normal defenses against pathogens of the eye is compromised. Different eye infections present differently with different symptoms and treatment options, therefore it is best to consult your optometrist or physician.

EYE INFLAMMATION
Eye inflammation most commonly occurs in response to infection, allergy, surgery or trauma. It is important to control duration and severity of inflammation and avoid scarring, as even a small amount of scarring in eye tissue can lead to irreversible vision impairment. Symptoms of inflammation are swelling, pain, heat and redness, caused by increased blood flow to the injured area. Anti-inflammatory medications are generally used to treat eye inflammation.

STRABISMUS
Strabismus is also known as “crossed eyes” or a “squint”. In strabismus the eyes might turn in, out, up or down. It is not uncommon for a new born baby’s eyes to wander, but if this insists after about six weeks it can be classified as a strabismus. Treatment for strabuismus includes visual therapy and/or corrective surgery.

AMBLYOPIA
Amblyopia is also known as a “lazy eye”. Amblyopia is poor vision in one eye that did not develop normal sight during early childhood. This is usually caused strabismus, where one eye is turned in such a way that normal, binocular vision is not permitted and the brain favors the “better” eye. The “weaker” eye gets consciously ignored by the brain and that eye develops amblyopia. Early detection of amblyopia is critical and treatment most commonly consists of occlusion therapy. If amblyopia is not detected early on, the child will be left near blind in that eye for life.

CATARACTS
A Cataract is caused when the lens becomes cloudy, thus blocking the light to reach the retina which causes visual impairment. Often a cataract will grow larger and denser over time, where after it can be removed surgically. Patients with cataracts may cause cloudy or foggy vision.

GLAUCOMA
Glaucoma develops when the pressure within the eye (intra ocular pressure – IOP) gets too high and damages the optic nerve which transmits images to the brain. This causes symptoms such as narrowing of the visual field en may end in blindness. Glaucoma is a potentially blinding eye condition therefore early detection is of utmost importance. Be extra careful if there is glaucoma in the family history. Treatment for glaucoma includes prescription eye drops and laser surgery.

MACULAR DEGENERATION
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that destroys the central vision by damaging the macula. The macula is a small area in the back of the eye which provides color and the fine detail needed for central vision. AMD is mainly age-related, especially when there is a family history of AMD. Other risk factors are smoking, UV exposure, a deficiency in Vitamin A, C and E, and high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle is the key preventative measure to slow down the process of AMD.

DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
Diabetic retinopathy is a disease affecting the retina and is usually a complication of diabetes. Diabetes tends to damage the small blood vessels in the retina, causing them to weaken and eventually leak or burst. This causes new blood vessels to grow in the retina which causes visual disturbances. Diabetic retinopathy cannot be cured, but early detection is critical. The progress can also be slowed by maintaining stable blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Laser treatment is also very effective.