What are some common eye problems I can prevent?

For most people, sight is the most helpful of all the senses. It allows you to understand and navigate the world around you. So it’s important to take good care of your eyes so they work properly well into the future.

Most people experience eye problems from time to time, and vision problems tend to increase with age. Many of these problems are minor and don’t last too long. But there are some serious eye problems that can cause major damage to the eyes, including a permanent loss of vision.

Luckily most eye problems, including those that are very serious, can be prevented. Here is a list of some common preventable eye problems.

Dry eyes

Dry eyes can cause significant eye discomfort and impaired vision, usually in both eyes. Symptoms include:

  • eye redness
  • stringy mucus in the eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • a scratchy sensation in the eyes
  • watery eyes, blurry vision, or eye fatigue
  • feeling like there is something in your eye

The cause of dry eyes is a lack of tears, which are needed to keep your eyes moist, healthy, and free from infection. You may lack tears due to decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation. Decreased tear production is often due to things that cannot be avoided. These include:

  • underlying medical issues
  • aging
  • use of certain medications
  • medical procedures

A common treatable cause of dry eyes is “blepharitis,” or inflammation of the eyelids caused by blocked glands. This can be treated with warm compresses applied to the eyelids, washing eyelids with baby shampoo, and eyelid massage.

How to prevent it

Increased tear evaporation is usually preventable. Some common reasons for increased tear evaporation include exposure to wind, smoke, or dry air. You can avoid dry eyes by protecting your eyes with sunglasses on windy, dry days. You can also wear goggles if you work outdoors in windy, dry, or smoky conditions.

Not blinking enough can also cause dry eyes. This can happen when you’re concentrating on reading, driving, or working on a computer for a long period of time. To prevent this, take short breaks from your work to give your eyes a rest.

Eye drops are also helpful in preventing dry eye. Research has shown that vitamin A and cyclosporine drops can lead to great improvement in the symptoms of dry eye. These kinds of drops were found to be more effective than preservative-free artificial tear eye drops.

While dry eye itself isn’t a harmful condition, it can lead to serious conditions that can harm your eyes, including eye infections and eye damage. If you are exposed to conditions that can cause dry eyes, you can prevent the condition from occurring by gently washing your eyelids with a cloth and warm water.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when the outer part of the eye becomes swollen or irritated in a reaction to pollen, dander, mold, or other substances that trigger allergies.

Allergy-causing substances release a chemical called histamine into the eyes, which causes the blood vessels in the outer layer of the eye to become swollen. The eyes may quickly become red, itchy, and watery. Other symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include:

  • burning eyes
  • puffy eyelids, especially in the morning
  • stringy discharge in the eyes
  • widened blood vessels in the outer layer of the eye

How to prevent it

The best way to avoid allergic conjunctivitis is to avoid the substances that trigger your symptoms. But researchers have also found eye drops to be helpful in preventing allergic conjunctivitis in those who are prone to allergic reactions. The antihistamines emedastine and levocabastine are helpful in preventing the condition. Use these after you have been exposed to a trigger, such as a day with high air pollen levels.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a set of eye conditions that together damage the optic nerve, which is important for good vision. This damage is often caused by unusually high pressure in the eye or eyes. Over time, glaucoma can lead to blindness that can’t be reversed. Glaucoma tends to be hereditary, but can also be caused by diabetes, eye injuries, and lack of exercise.

The symptoms of glaucoma include:

  • patchy blind spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision, often in both eyes
  • tunnel vision
  • bad headaches
  • eye pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • blurry vision
  • seeing halos around lights
  • eye redness

How to prevent it

Not all cases of glaucoma can be prevented, but there are steps you can take to prevent your glaucoma from worsening. Glaucoma treatment is most effective when given early. Experts agree that the best preventive step for glaucoma is to get frequent eye care and eye screenings, especially if you have diabetes.

You can prevent glaucoma by exercising regularly and safely, which reduces eye pressure. It’s also important to wear protective eye gear when working with power tools or playing sports that may cause injury to your eyes.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is a common eye condition, especially among people age 50 and older. It damages the back of the eye, leading to problems with seeing objects that are straight ahead. As the condition progresses, vision loss will occur in one or both eyes, causing a blurry area at the center of vision that grows larger over time. Objects may also appear less bright.

While it cannot cause complete blindness by itself, age-related macular degeneration can interfere with a person’s ability to navigate everyday life. Blurry vision can make it hard to:

  • recognize faces
  • drive
  • read
  • write
  • do chores around the house

The condition is caused by age-related changes in the eye. But some people are more prone to age-related macular degeneration than other people. These include people who smoke, Caucasians, and those with a family history of the condition.

How to prevent it

Researchers have found connections between age-related macular degeneration and some lifestyle choices. Experts say you can decrease your risks of age-related macular degeneration by:

  • not smoking
  • avoiding secondhand smoke
  • exercising regularly
  • keeping normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • eating a healthy diet

Takeaway

The best way to prevent an eye problem, or stop it from progressing, is to make regular visits to your eye doctor. You should always call your eye doctor if you have any sudden changes in vision.