Looking after your eyes is very important, which is why visiting us for an eye examination every 2 years is a must. Many common eye conditions don’t present noticeable symptoms straight away, but we can pick up the smallest changes in your vision or eye health during a routine test. It can help to recognise the key signs of some of the most common eye problems, as early detection is often the best way to treat the condition successfully and prevent any further problems.
When we carry out an eye examination, we look for any changes in your ability to see clearly as well as looking out for signs of any ill health in your eyes. Here we explain some of the most common eye conditions and how to look out for them.
Refractive errors are very common and can affect anyone. The term refers to a group of vision problems. This includes short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism.
If you are short-sighted, it means you can see objects clearly close up but you likely struggle to see things clearly that are at a distance. It usually begins in school-age children, but it can sometimes develop in young adults too.
Being short-sighted usually means your eyes are slightly longer than normal, which means the light focuses just in front of the retina instead of on it. This is what creates blurry vision at a distance. It doesn’t usually affect your eye health, but you might need glasses or contact lenses to help correct your vision.
You might notice it becomes difficult to see road signs or the TV, or you might begin to experience headaches and eye strain as your eyes are trying to work harder to see. It is very easy for your optician to diagnose this and help you with the right lenses.
Long-sightedness is the opposite of short-sightedness. You can see into the distance, but might struggle to see things up close such as your phone screen or a book. If you are long-sighted, it’s likely that your eye is slightly too short and the light focuses just behind the retina.
It presents similar symptoms as short-sightedness, including headaches or experiencing tired eyes. The biggest sign is noticing that close-up objects are blurred. Adults often develop long-sightedness as they get older, usually after 40, but this is known as age-related long-sightedness called presbyopia.
Long-sightedness is easy to detect during a routine eye examination, and may require glasses to help correct your vision when looking at things close up.
Astigmatism can be just as common as the two previous conditions, and usually occurs when the cornea of your eye is misshapen. A regular cornea is symmetrically round, like a football. If you have astigmatism, it means the cornea is more likely shaped like an egg or a rugby ball.
You are usually born with astigmatism and it is common to have a degree of astigmatism if you are short or long-sighted. It can cause blurry vision and you might have some trouble distinguishing shapes or details. Again, it is easily detected and simply just needs the correct glasses, which we can help you with.
Cataracts are more common in those aged over 65, and they can develop gradually which makes it difficult to notice. The lens of the eye becomes cloudy and loses its transparency. You might notice blurry or cloudy vision, faded colours and a halo effect when looking at lights.
Unfortunately the main cause of cataracts is ageing, and so they can’t always be avoided. Smoking can increase your chances of developing cataracts in some cases. Signs of cataracts are usually picked up during a routine eye test, and you usually find they affect both eyes.
Cataracts can be treated through wearing the right lenses or surgery. It is one of the most common procedures in the UK, and the recovery time is usually quite short.
Glaucoma usually occurs when there is an increase of pressure inside the eye. There are different types and they can develop at various speeds, so it’s important to visit us if you notice anything different in your vision.
You could be at higher risk of developing glaucoma if you are older, or if you have a family history of the condition. In some cases, short-sightedness may increase your chances of developing a type of glaucoma. Signs can include eye pain, redness, headaches, halos around lights or tenderness around the eye.
Glaucoma usually affects the outer eye first, so you might not always notice anything different. If you are at higher risk of developing the condition, you might be advised to have your vision tested more frequently than every 2 years.
Macular degeneration can cause you to lose your central vision. It’s painless but it does mean your vision will become blurry over time. You might notice colours are less vibrant, contrast between objects is diminished and you may become sensitive to bright lights.
It is usually caused by age, and the condition is known in full as age-related macular degeneration. There are two types: dry and wet. It is unknown what causes it, except it is closely linked to age and family history of the condition.
It can be picked up during a routine eye test, whereby you might be referred to an hospital eye department for further tests. Unfortunately there is no cure, but you can use certain tools and lifestyle changes to make your day-to-day tasks a little easier.