There are many types of eye problems and visual disturbances. These include blurred vision, halos, blind spots, floaters, and other symptoms. Blurred vision is the loss of sharpness of vision and the inability to see small details. Blind spots (scotomas) are dark “holes” in the visual field in which nothing can be seen.
African Americans between 45 and 65 years old have a 15 times greater chance of going blind from vision illnesses, particularly glaucoma, than do whites.
Vision impairment; Impaired vision; Blurred vision
Changes in vision, blurriness, blind spots, halos around lights, or dimness of vision should always be evaluated by a medical professional.
Such changes may represent an eye disease, aging, eye injury, or a condition like diabetes that affects many organs in your body.
Whatever the cause, vision changes should never be ignored. They can get worse and significantly impact the quality of your life.
Professional help is always necessary. As you determine which professional to see, the following descriptions may help:
• Opticians dispense glasses and do not diagnose eye problems.
• Optometrists perform eye exams and may diagnose eye problems. They prescribe glasses and contact lenses. In some states, they treat diseases that affect the eyes.
• Ophthalmologists are physicians who diagnose and treat diseases that affect the eyes. They also perform eye surgery. These doctors may also provide routine vision care services, such as prescribing glasses and contact lenses.
• Sometimes an eye problem is part of a general health problem. In these situations, your primary care provider should also be involved.
Exams and Tests
Periodic eye exams by your ophthalmologist are essential to monitor the health of your eyes and diagnose suspected problems. Checking the position of each eye and its movements will reveal crossed eyes or other forms of strabismus.
The exam may include these parts:
• An eye chart uses letters of decreasing size to determine the sharpness of your vision at a distance.
• The retinoscope projects a thin beam of light into the eye. When used with the rotating lens dial (called the phoropter) the eye doctor measures any refractive error like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism.
• A slit-lamp microscope exam of the surface of each eye. The same device is used to inspect the eye’s internal structures. This is how changes in the clear cornea and lens are identified.
Pressure inside the eye is measured using one of several devices.
• Exams with an ophthalmoscope can reveal abnormalities of the retina, the macula, the optic nerve, and other structure inside the eye.
• Dilating eye drops may be given in order for the doctor to complete a full exam.
If routine testing indicates that you have a refractive error, conventional treatment calls for wearing corrective glasses or contact lenses. Almost 60% of the population wears corrective lenses, and that number increases markedly after the age of 65. In many cases, surgical correction of refractive errors is possible using modern surgical techniques such as LASIK.
Conventional treatment for disorders such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism typically relies on corrective prescription lenses. Disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal detachment require advanced medical and surgical treatments. Enormous progress in eye surgery has been made over the past few decades. Many people with eye problems previously felt to be untreatable now enjoy improved eyesight and an improved quality of life. This applies to individuals of every age — infants to senior citizens!
Some eye problems are minor and fleeting. But some lead to a permanent loss of vision.
Common eye problems include:
• Cataracts – clouded lenses
• Glaucoma – damage to the optic nerve from too much pressure in the eye
• Retinal disorders – problems with the nerve layer at the back of the eye
• Conjunctivitis – an infection also known as pinkeye
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact a doctor if you experience:
- Eye twitching
- Itchy eyes
- Seeing Floaters
- Blurry Vision
Your best defense is to have regular checkups, because eye diseases do not always have symptoms. Early detection and treatment could prevent vision loss. See an eye care professional right away if you have a sudden change in vision or everything looks dim or if you see flashes of light. Other symptoms that need quick attention are pain, double vision, fluid coming from the eye and inflammation.