Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. Anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk. You’re at higher risk if you are over age 60, are African American or Hispanic/Latino, or have a family history of glaucoma.
At first, glaucoma doesn’t usually have any symptoms. That’s why half of people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it. Over time, you may slowly lose vision, usually starting with your side (peripheral) vision — especially the part of your vision that’s closest to your nose. Because it happens so slowly, many people can’t tell that their vision is changing, especially at first. But as the disease gets worse, you may start to notice that you can’t see things off to the side anymore. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness.
Doctors use a few different types of treatment for glaucoma, including medicines (usually eye drops), laser treatment, and surgery. If you have glaucoma, it’s important to start treatment right away. While it won’t undo any damage to your vision, treatment can stop it from getting worse.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that can blur the sharp, central vision you need for activities like reading and driving. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss for people age 50 and older. The risk of AMD is higher for people who have a family history of AMD, are Caucasian, or smoke.
AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness, but losing your central vision can make it harder to see faces, drive, or do close-up work like cooking or fixing things around the house. Some people may also notice that straight lines start to look wavy. This can be a warning sign for late AMD. If you notice this symptom, see your eye doctor right away.
There’s currently no treatment for early AMD, so your eye doctor will probably just keep track of how your eyes are doing with regular eye exams. Eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking can also help. If you have intermediate or late AMD, special dietary supplements (vitamins and minerals) may be able to stop it from getting worse. For people with a type of late AMD called “wet” or neovascular AMD, your eye doctor may recommend medicines called anti-VEGF drugs that the doctor injects in your eye.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness in people who have diabetes. It affects blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye). If you have diabetes, it’s important for you to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Anyone with diabetes can get diabetic retinopathy — including people with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Your risk increases the longer you have diabetes. The good news is that you can lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by controlling your diabetes.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, your eye doctor will probably just keep track of how your eyes are doing. Some people with diabetic retinopathy may need a comprehensive dilated eye exam as often as every 2 to 4 months. In later stages, it’s important to start treatment right away — especially if you experience changes in your vision. While it won’t undo any damage to your vision, treatment can stop your vision from getting worse. It’s also important to take steps to control your diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
A chalazion is a hard lump on the eyelid caused by a blocked oil gland. It can make your eyelid swell and turn red. Occasionally a chalazion may release white discharge.
A chalazion will often go away on its own. You may be able to accelerate the resolution of a chalazion with regular warm compresses to the eyelid. Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce inflammation associated with chalazion.
Sometimes a chalazion does not completely go away with medical therapy. In these cases, the chalazion can be treated with an injection of medication into the eyelid, or with a minor surgical procedure in the office to open the blocked oil gland.
Blepharitis is a common eye condition that makes your eyelids red, swollen, irritated, and itchy. It can cause crusty dandruff-like flakes on your eyelashes. Blepharitis can be uncomfortable, but with appropriate treatment it usually doesn’t cause any lasting damage to your eyes.
Blepharitis is a chronic condition, so the goal of therapy is not to eradicate the disease, but to find a treatment regimen that controls your symptoms and suits your lifestyle.