Please use the following information to learn more about common health problems, and musculoskeletal conditions and the amazing treatments modern optometrists can offer. If you have any questions, please consider one of "America's Best Optometrists" for a consultation, examination and care.
Doctors of Optometry treat, and manage disorders, diseases and injuries to the visual system. They diagnose ailments of the eye, its associated structures, and general systemic conditions that may affect the eye. Optometrists prescribe medications, perform vision therapy and rehabilitation, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and perform specific surgical procedures. They are experts in counseling patients regarding non-surgical and surgical alternatives to treat sight and vision problems.
Optometrists are highly trained professionals who have completed four years of college, followed by an additional four years of education at professional school of Optometry. Optometrists may continue to complete residency training in a specialty area of practice.
Amblyopia, often called “lazy eye” occurs when the central vision in one eye diminishes or does not develop as it should; so that the brain fails to recognize the image transmitted by the affected eye. Peripheral vision is not impacted, and the amblyopic eye is not considered void of sight. However, vision in the affected eye tends to worsen over time. Amblyopia cannot be corrected solely with glasses or contact lenses. The condition affects keen depth perception and limits an individual’s ability to participate in activities that require such perception.
Causes of Amblyopia
Amblyopia is typically seen in children under 8 years of age and may impact up to 4% of children. It is rare for an adult to develop amblyopia. The primary cause of this condition is inadequate development of vision. Low birth weight and premature birth are risk factors, as well. Amblyopia can also result or be associated with:
Typically, few symptoms are present with amblyopia, and the symptoms may not be easily noticed. A child may tend to look at things with one eye versus the other or bump into things on the side with the affected vision.
Diagnosing & Treating Amblyopia
A thorough examination by an optometrist is needed to diagnose amblyopia. Most children are unaware they suffer from this condition. Therefore, children should attend eye exams at six months of age and three years of age in accordance with guidelines established by the American Optometric Association. Another check prior to a child entering school is recommended, as well.
Amblyopia will not resolve without treatment and will in fact worsen. The possibility of total recovery increases with early diagnosis and treatment. Intervention in pre-teen to adult years yields less beneficial results. Amblyopia treatment may include:
The condition called anterior uveitis occurs when the eye’s middle layer, containing the iris and the ciliary body, becomes inflamed. Swelling of the retina, cataract formation, or glaucoma can result and cause significant damage to the vision, including vision loss.
Generally, an underlying cause of anterior uveitis cannot be found. However, the following conditions may contribute to anterior uveitis:
Anterior uveitis symptoms can mimic those of other eye condition, so it is important to see an optometrist for a thorough exam and diagnosis.
Treatment for anterior uveitis can consist of anti-inflammatory medication coupled with prescription eye drops for several days to many weeks.
Astigmatism is a condition when vision is blurred because of an abnormally shaped cornea or lens. The result is that light cannot focus correctly on the retina, causing fuzzy near and far vision. Astigmatism is a common condition that is often seen in tandem with nearsightedness or farsightedness. Because these conditions impact an eye’s ability to refract (bend) light, they are called refractive errors.
No treatment is needed for small degrees of astigmatism, as vision may not be significantly impacted. Higher degrees of astigmatism usually require care, to renew visual acuity or to alleviate headaches or eye discomfort that may occur.
Causes of Astigmatism
Typically, astigmatism is inherited or exists at birth. It can increase or decrease as time passes. Other factors that influence astigmatism include eye surgery, eye injury, and an uncommon corneal condition called keratoconus.
Diagnosing & Treating Astigmatism
A thorough vision test allows an optometrist to determine a diagnosis of astigmatism. Components of the exam may include:
Treatment for astigmatism may include:
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids causing red, irritated, itchy eyelids and the formation of dandruff-like scales on eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either bacteria or a skin condition such as dandruff of the scalp or acne rosacea. Blepharitis affects people of all ages. Although uncomfortable, it is not contagious and generally does not cause any permanent damage to eyesight.
There are two classifications of blepharitis:
The types of blepharitis included in these classifications are:
Factors that may contribute to the development of blepharitis include:
Blepharitis symptoms can be mild, or they can become severe and impact vision, cause gaps in the lash line, and create corneal swelling. Other symptoms include:
The type of treatment recommended for blepharitis depends on the type. Often, regular cleaning of the eyelids and washing of the scalp and face can keep the condition in check. Once blepharitis occurs, it usually does not resolve completely and can recur following treatment. Treatment can include:
The lens sits behind the iris of the eye and focuses light on the retina. A cataract forms when the proteins and water that make up the lens change and cause clouding. Cataracts can impede vision – depending on where they are located and how big they are – by inhibiting the ability of the lens to properly focus light on the retina. Generally, cataracts form very slowly and affect both eyes, with one eye sometimes experiencing more negative symptoms of cataract than the other.
Cataracts typically impact people 55 years of age and older; however, young children and even infants can develop cataracts.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts can form in the outer, middle, or inner layers of the lens. The location of the cataract determines its type.
Factors that May Contribute to Cataract Formation
A mother who develops an infection, such as rubella, during pregnancy can have a baby born with cataracts. Cataracts may also be inherited.
Diagnosing & Treating Cataracts
A comprehensive eye exam is conducted to determine a diagnosis of cataracts. Aspects of the exam typically include:
Treatment for cataracts includes:
Surgery may be performed to address cataracts that significantly impact vision and prevent a person from pursuing a normal routine. During cataract surgery, the lens of the eye is removed and an artificial lens put in its place. This new lens can replicate the focusing ability of a healthy eye. Considered one of the safest surgeries performed in the US, cataract surgery can be extremely effective, with 90% of recipients reporting improved vision. If a new lens cannot be placed in the eye, eyeglasses or contact lenses may remedy vision difficulties.
Types of cataract surgery include:
Risks of cataract surgery including bleeding, infection, and retinal detachment.
While it may not be completely possible to prevent cataracts, there are ways to reduce risk:
A chalazion typically starts out as a small swollen area on the upper eyelid. It may be red in color and feel sore. After a few days, a lump that may grow to pea-size may appear. Chalazions form when oil glands in the eyelid become blocked, fail to drain and form a lump. After some time buildup may cause the gland to burst. Eye irritation can develop when oil is released.
Chalazions usually impact adults in the 30-50 age range. A chalazion is often confused with a sty but chalazions can develop following sty formation. Most chalazia disappear without treatment in several weeks to a month. However, they often recur. Rarely, they may be an indication of an infection or skin cancer.
Oftentimes, a chalazion will resolve without medical treatment. Warm compresses applied to the affected eye several times a day for 10 to 15 minutes may help by softening the oil in the blocked gland and encouraging drainage. Gentle massage of the eyelid may also be beneficial. Chalazions that do not resolve after a month need to be seen by an eye doctor.
Sometimes called color blindness, color vision deficiency occurs when a person cannot tell the difference between certain colors; the most common being inability to discern shades of red and green. Blue and yellow deficiency is a less common form. In severe cases, affected individuals cannot see any colors, only black and white or different shades of gray. This is called achromatopsia.
Color vision deficiency occurs when the cones found in the retina of each eye lack a pigment enabling them to see certain colors such as red, green, or blue. If the condition is inherited, both eyes are typically affected. If illness or injury results in color vision deficiency, then one eye may be impacted. Color vision deficiency is usually not a threat to vision.
Often, a person may not know that they have color vision deficiency, so children should receive a comprehensive eye exam performed by an optometrist prior to beginning school.
Types of Color Vision Deficiency
Causes of Color Vision Deficiency
This condition can be caused by disease or injury to the retina or optic nerve. More commonly, though, it is inherited, typically passed from mother to son. Color vision deficiency affects approximately 8% of white males and is present at birth. Diseases that can result in color vision deficiency include:
Other causes include aging, certain medications, and exposure to certain fertilizers and chemicals, such as styrene. To help “identify” colors, affected people may have someone help them organize or label objects such as clothing; or work to remember the order of colors, such as on a traffic light.
No treatment exists for color vision deficiency that is inherited, although specially tinted contacts or glasses may help. For color vision deficiency caused by disease or injury, certain treatments may result in color vision improvement.
Working at a computer for longs periods of time places a high level of demand on the eyes, making them work harder and causing a variety of eye symptoms, with longer periods of use making symptoms worse. Grouped together, these eye issues are called “Computer Vision Syndrome” (CVS). People with untreated vision problems – such as presbyopia, farsightedness, problems with eye coordination, and other issues – run a higher risk of developing CVS.
Symptoms of CVS
Factors that contribute to these symptoms include computer screen glare, improper lighting, not sitting an appropriate distance from a computer, and poor posture when occupied on the computer. Working at a computer for two hours or more at a time increases the risk of CVS.
The good news is that many CVS symptoms go away when a person is not on a computer. However, some symptoms may linger, or worsen if not properly addressed.
Diagnosing & Treating CVS
An optometrist will conduct a thorough eye exam to determine a diagnosis of CVS. During the exam, the doctor may ask about health history, current symptoms, your home or work environment, and medication use. Other elements of the exam may include:
Treatment may consist of:
Changes Regarding Computer Use
The tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid is called the conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis occurs when this layer of tissue becomes infected or inflamed. Commonly known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is typically considered a minor infection of the eye. However, it can turn serious. Conjunctivitis occurs commonly in the population, especially among children. Some types of conjunctivitis can spread rapidly to others.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
The following symptoms may occur in one or both eyes:
Types & Causes of Conjunctivitis
Diagnosing & Treating Conjunctivitis
Diagnosing conjunctivitis may consist of:
The goals of treating conjunctivitis are to lessen discomfort, prevent the spread of conjunctivitis, and reduce the amount of time the eye is impacted. Treatment may include:
If you wear contact lenses, you may need to stop wearing them until your conjunctivitis goes away. Conjunctivitis caused by contact lens wear may require using a new brand of solution to disinfect lenses or wearing a different type of lens that requires more frequent cleaning or disposal.
If you have been diagnosed with conjunctivitis:
Diabetes can negatively impact the retina’s circulatory system. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the retina leak causing swelling in the eye and cloudy vision. The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the length of time a person suffers from diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy typically impacts both eyes and can result in blindness, if not addressed.
Types of Diabetic Retinopathy
Who is at Risk:
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
The specific treatment for an individual with diabetic retinopathy depends on the progression of the condition. Treatments include:
If you have diabetes, the American Optometric Association recommends a yearly comprehensive exam that includes eye dilation to detect diabetic retinopathy. When identified and treated in the early stage, significant loss of vision can be deterred.
Additionally, people with diabetes should:
The condition known as dry eye is a common condition that may become a chronic one in people over the age of 65. It occurs when a person does not produce enough tears for nourishment and lubrication of the eye. Poor quality tears can also contribute to the condition of dry eye. Tears help keep eyes healthy and aid in vision by keeping the cornea smooth and moist, eliminating external matter that may get in the eye, and decreasing infection risk. Tears that are not used simply drain into small ducts in the corner of the eye.
Causes of Dry Eye
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Diagnosing & Treating Dry Eye
Diagnosis typically entails a thorough examination of the eyes, a discussion of healthy history and current medication use, testing tear quality and quantity, consideration of potential environmental causes, and other measures which may include:
Treatment for dry eye may include:
Caring for Dry Eye at Home
A person who is farsighted cannot clearly focus on close objects but can see distant objects clearly. Hyperopia, which is the medical term for this condition, occurs when light is not focused properly as it enters the eye, either as a result of a cornea that is not curved enough or an eye that is too short from front to back.
Hyperopia is a common, typically naturally occurring condition. It is only deemed a problem when it severely impacts vision. Reports show that more than 50% of glasses wearers do so to correct farsightedness.
Signs of Farsightedness
Causes of Farsightedness
Diagnosing & Treating Farsightedness
An exam by an optometrist or a vision screening can provide information to diagnose farsightedness.
Minimal farsightedness may not require treatment. Prescription glasses or contacts can correct farsightedness for many people.
Spots that appear to drift across the eye are called floaters. These specks reside in the vitreous fluid inside the eye. Floaters can appear as thin strands, dots, or web-like structures. If you attempt to focus your vision on a floater, it appears to move. This is because the floaters exist within the eye itself.
Causes of Floaters
Floaters can be caused by specks of protein or another biological substance formed in the eye prior to birth or from aging, eye injury, or disease in the eye. In the cases of injury, disease, and aging, the vitreous in the eye can break down and cause bits of vitreous material to appear as floaters.
Generally, the spots known as floaters are not indicative of vision damage, and they don’t harm vision. However, if you experience an increase in floaters or a change in the appearance of floaters, it is advised that you see an optometrist to rule out a more serious eye condition.
Diagnosing & Treating Floaters
An eye examination by an optometrist can diagnose floaters. This condition typically requires no treatment.
Glaucoma is actually the name for a group of eye issues. It occurs when pressure builds up in the eye as a result of an inadequate drainage angle in the eye, although the exact cause of glaucoma is unknown. Glaucoma typically impacts people age 40 and over (although there is an infantile form of glaucoma) and is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. It is the primary cause of blindness among Hispanics. Glaucoma causes degenerative optic nerve damage. Because the optic nerve is responsible for sending signals to the brain from the eye, damage to the nerve from glaucoma ultimately causes vision loss.
It is important to note that not all pressure changes in the eye cause glaucoma and that some people with normal eye pressure will be diagnosed with the condition. Glaucoma will occur when eye pressure increases beyond the degree a person’s optic nerve can withstand.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Types of Glaucoma
Diagnosing & Treating Glaucoma
A thorough eye exam is needed to diagnose glaucoma. The doctor will look for alterations in the optic nerve, nerve tissue loss, and vision loss over a period of time.
Testing for glaucoma may include:
Glaucoma can be controlled and the risk of vision loss lessened by medication and other treatments; however, it cannot be prevented or cured. Annual eye dilation is recommended by the American Optometric Association to screen for glaucoma.
Glaucoma treatment may include:
Treatment for acute angle-closure glaucoma is considered an emergency and may consist of numerous medications along with laser surgery to relieve pressure.
Because there is no cure for glaucoma, treatment must continue for the remainder of a patient’s life. The degenerative affects of the disease may be halted or slowed through continued treatment and constant monitoring of eye pressure by a doctor.
The vision disorder known as keratoconus typically affects people who are in their late teens to early 20s. It is caused when the cornea thins and becomes cone shaped, distorting vision because light no longer focuses correctly on the cornea. The progression of keratoconus may last for up to 20 years and then slow. A person with keratoconus may experience different gradations of the condition in each eye. Early-stage symptoms include:
As the condition progresses, the cornea may bulge, which causes a decrease in vision. Rarely, corneal swelling can contribute to a dramatic decrease in vision. This is caused by a crack forming in the cornea due to the strain of swelling. Ultimately, the crack, which may last for months, is replaced with scar tissue. Eye drops can be used if this occurs, but they will only provide relief from symptoms and will not halt the progression of keratoconus. Additional treatments for keratoconus include:
Macular Degeneration, also called Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), describes a condition in which the macula of the eye changes and causes loss of central vision. The macula resides in the inside back layer of the eye and is part of the retina. AMD typically impacts adults over the age of 50 and is this age group’s leading cause of significant vision loss. There are two types of AMD: wet and dry.
AMD tends to strike women earlier than it does men, and the Caucasian race suffers from AMD at a greater rate than other races. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that almost 2 million people suffer from AMD. An estimated 7.3 million people run the risk of incurring major loss of vision due to AMD.
Types of AMD
Diagnosis & Treating AMD
At the onset, AMD may not present symptoms. However, if any symptoms are experienced, it is important to see an optometrist for an eye exam and test to determine a diagnosis. Vision lost to AMD cannot be restored, but an optometrist can help to make the most of remaining vision.
Lessen the Risk of AMDTo lessen the risk of AMD and other eyes diseases, it may be beneficial to consume foods high in zinc, lutein/zeaxanthin, and vitamins E and C.
The medical term for nearsightedness is myopia. This common eye condition causes difficulty clearly focusing on objects at a distance. It occurs as a result of excess cornea curvature or an eye that is too long from front to back. This causes images entering the eye to focus incorrectly and appear blurry.
Estimates show that approximately 30% of people in the US are nearsightedness. This condition is typically first noted in children of school age (although it can develop in adulthood) and continues worsening until approximately age 20. The first sign of nearsightedness in children is often trouble seeing in the classroom.
Night myopia causes blurred vision during nighttime. Pseudo myopia occurs after long periods of activity that require close focus with the eyes. Pseudo myopia is not permanent, but may cause vision diminishment over time.
Causes of Nearsightedness
Diagnosing & Treating Nearsightedness
A thorough eye exam conducted by an optometrist can determine a diagnosis of nearsightedness. The exam may include:
Treatment for nearsightedness includes:
Nystagmus is characterized by involuntary, repetitive eye movement – either in a circular motion, side to side, or up and down – that cause a person to be unable to focus steadily on an object. A person suffering my nystagmus may hold their head in an unusual position or nod their head to try to focus on an object. The condition can also cause decreased vision with regard to acuity and depth perception. Compromised depth perception may result in decreased coordination and balance skills.
Types of Nystagmus
Nystagmus can also be distinguished by type of eye motion:
While the exact cause of nystagmus is not known, nystagmus that develops in the early childhood years tends to be inherited and caused by an issue in the eye-to-brain pathway when no other medical problems are present. (Some types of nystagmus that occur in childhood can improve.) Nystagmus can occur in older individuals, as well, as a result of illness, injury, stroke, head injury, or multiple sclerosis. The condition may worsen from stress and fatigue. Usually, nystagmus accompanies an underlying medical issue or other eye problem.
Other causes include:
There is no cure for nystagmus. Treatments include:
Ocular hypertension occurs when the pressure in the eyes increases beyond the normal range. This eye condition does not typically cause symptoms. However it can increase the risk of developing glaucoma, a damaging eye condition also characterized by elevated eye pressure. Therefore, patients with Ocular hypertension should receive regular eye exams to monitor the condition and lessen the risk of eye damage. No cure exists for ocular hypertension.
Who is at Risk?
Although ocular hypertension can impact all age ranges, the following groups are more frequently impacted by this condition:
When the lens of the eye becomes inflexible, close objects become hard to see clearly. This condition is called presbyopia. It occurs as part of the aging process; therefore, it cannot be prevented. It may seem to sufferers of presbyopia that the change in vision occurs rapidly, usually after the age of 40. However, by the time diminishment of the ability to focus is noticed, the inflexibility of the lens has been occurring gradually over a period of years.
Symptoms of Presbyopia
Diagnosing & Treating Presbyopia
Visiting an optometrist for a thorough eye exam is the first step in diagnosing presbyopia.
Treatment for the condition may include:
Presbyopia can occur in conjunction with astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness. Monitoring vision on a regular basis by attending checkups at an optometrist’s office can determine if changes in prescription or the type of eyewear used need to be made to accommodate vision changes.
An inherited eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa causes damage to the cones and rods in the retina. Cones contribute to central vision and ability to see colors. Rods are crucial to seeing at night and to peripheral vision. In retinitis pigmentosa, rods are impacted more than cones. While the progression of the disease is slow, ultimately loss of peripheral vision can occur. Many years may pass before the vision is significantly damaged.
Symptoms of this condition usually arise in childhood and the early teen years and include blindness at night, as well as a progressive loss of peripheral vision that results in tunnel vision.
Studies show that nutritional supplements containing lutein and vitamin A may slow the disease. Vision aids may also help compensate for the loss of side vision that occurs with this disease by maximizing existing vision.
The common term for strabismus is crossed eyes. This condition occurs when the eyes are not able to process or implement the directions sent by the brain telling them to work in tandem to focus on an object. One or both eyes can turn up, down, inward, or outward. Strabismus can occur as a constant condition, or it may occur occasionally as a result of fatigue, illness, or other circumstances.
A condition caused pseudo strabismus can make it seem as if a baby’s eyes are crossed. However, this is not true strabismus, as it is usually the result of a wide nasal bridge or excess skin covering the inner eye making it appear as if the eyes are crossed. The cross-eyed effect disappears as the child’s facial features grow.
True strabismus is typically noticed in children by the time they reach 3 years of age. However, strabismus can occur later, as a child matures and even in adulthood. Children do not outgrow strabismus, and the condition will only worsen if left untreated. Is it recommended that all children four months or older who exhibit signs of strabismus been seen by an eye doctor.
Causes of Strabismus
Types of Strabismus
The types of strabismus are classified according to the following:
The two most common types of this eye condition are:
Diagnosing & Treating Strabismus
Proper diagnosis and treatment of strabismus is important to maintain good vision. If strabismus goes untreated, the brain begins to disregard images transmitted by the impacted eye. This can result is diminished vision and development of amblyopia, also called lazy eye.
Diagnosing strabismus entails a thorough examination of the eyes, especially how the move and how they focus on objects. Other aspects of the exam include:
Caught early, the prognosis for overcoming strabismus is excellent. Strabismus treatments include: