Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a mild, bacterial infection of the eyelash follicles, which can affect either the outside or the inner corner of the eye. The eyelid edges may look red and swollen with whitish scales that appear to stick to the roots of the eyelashes; eyes may feel as though they are burning, sore or incredibly itchy. It is unclear what the causes are but some scalp conditions, allergies, mites or certain medications may increase the likelihood of blepharitis occurring. A physical examination of your eye is usually enough to diagnose the problem, which will need treatment as unfortunately, it will not go away on its own.

Conjuctivitis

Conjuctivitis is an infection or swelling in the eye area. It typically gives the eye a red or pink colour, due to the blood vessels in the conjunctiva (a thin membrane that lines part of the eye) becoming inflamed. Conjuctivitis can be caused by chemical splashes, allergies, and by bacterial or viral infection. It is highly contagious and can spread quite easily from one person to another by hand contact. Your optometrist can make diagnosis and treatment will depend on its particular cause. If the cause is a viral infection, symptoms will go away on their own, usually within 7 to 10 days. Practising good hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent getting and spreading conjunctivitis.

Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy patches that develop in the lens (the transparent structure that sits just behind your pupil) of your eye and can cause blurred or misty vision. They are the main cause of impaired vision worldwide and in England and Wales, it is estimated that around 2.5 million people aged 65 or older have some degree of visual impairment caused by cataracts. They generally develop over many years as people get older and may at first be unnoticeable. They often develop in both eyes, although can affect each eye differently. Following an examination, if it is thought you have cataracts, your optician may refer you to an ophthalmologist or an ophthalmic surgeon, who can confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition that can affect sight, usually due to a build up of pressure within the eye. Our eyes constantly produce a fluid called aqueous humour, with excess fluid draining naturally through the body. Glaucoma develops when the fluid cannot drain properly and pressure builds up – known as the intraocular pressure, which can damage the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain. There are many types of glaucoma, with the most common developing very slowly. Attending regular optician appointments will help to ensure any signs of glaucoma can be detected early and allow treatment to begin. If you are over 40 years old and have a first-degree relative (mother, father, sister or brother) with glaucoma, you are entitled to a free NHS eye test.

Macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is a painless eye condition that occurs when cells in the macular degenerate. AMD generally leads to the gradual loss of central vision but not peripheral; it can sometimes cause a rapid reduction in vision and is the most common cause of vision loss in those aged over 50. There are two types of AMD – ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. ‘Wet’ AMD is the most severe type but is also the most treatable and the development of new medicines may halt or delay the progression of visual loss. Some symptoms of AMD include: blurring of central vision and visual distortion, needing a brighter light to read by, and having difficulty recognising faces. Following an eye examination, if it is thought you have AMD, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist, who can confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment. In rare cases, macular degeneration affects younger people. This is sometimes known as juvenile macular degeneration.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the retina – the cells at the back of the eye. If it isn’t treated, it can cause blindness. For this reason, it is important that everyone who is diagnosed with diabetes has their eyes examined once a year for signs of damage. You may not notice any symptoms of diabetic retinopathy during the initial stages. When vision becomes affected, vision loss will most probably be permanent. This is why diabetic eye screening is so important. Treatment will depend on the stage of the condition, which if identified early, can be prevented from getting worse by controlling the diabetes

Dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly, leaving the eyes to become dried out, inflamed and irritated. It can be caused by different reasons, such as wearing contact lenses, hormonal changes, or simply being in a hot or windy climate. Treatments include eye drops to lubricate the eyes, medications to reduce any inflammation, and (if necessary) surgery to prevent tears from draining away easily. The condition can also be caused by an underlying medical condition. Following examination by your doctor or optometrist, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for further tests

Headaches and eye strain

Headaches are a symptom of eye strain or eye fatigue. Other symptoms include sore or irritated eyes, difficulty focusing, blurred or double vision, increased sensitivity to light, and dry or watery eyes. One of the most common causes of eye strain is staring for long periods at digital devices such as computer screens and smartphones. Other common causes are extended periods of time reading, writing and driving. Usually eye strain (a major cause of headaches) can be prevented by making simple changes in you work habits or environment, such as placing your computer screen a certain distance away from your eyes and a little below eye level, taking regular breaks and ensuring that you are wearing the correct lenses for computer work and reading.

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