Doctors were shocked when they treated a 42-year-old woman for a droopy eyelid and “well-defined” cyst just above her left eye. After the cyst was removed, it broke open, revealing an extremely fragile hard contact lens inside. Doctors surmised the contact lens migrated into the patient’s left upper eyelid when a badminton shuttlecock hit her in the eye at age 14. How it worked its way under her eyelid flesh and camped out there for 28 years is truly mind-boggling! The likelihood of a contact lens getting embedded inside your eyelid is rare enough, but while playing badminton, wow! Figuring out the odds of this event would stump the most avid statistician! Here are common types of vision problems you’re far more likely to encounter.
Common Eye Problem Symptoms
The following common refractive errors and eye diseases are associated with blurry vision, as well as other symptoms.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Impacting an estimated 2.1 million people aged 50 and older in the U.S., this serious sight-robbing disease is associated with blurry central vision. People with AMD also have difficulty seeing in dim light and may experience partial vision loss related to blind spots.
Astigmatism: Impacting about 1in 3 people, this common vision problem blurs the edges and outlines of objects, making it difficult to determine the distance between two objects. It is often accompanied by myopia (nearsightedness) or (hyperopia) farsightedness. Astigmatism is caused by an irregularly-shaped cornea that looks more like a football than a normal sphere-shaped structure.
Cataracts: By age 75, about 50% of all Americans have cataracts, with an estimated 24.4 million people aged 40 and older affected in the U.S. In addition to blurry or clouded vision, cataracts cause difficulty seeing well in dim light, halos around lights, faded colors, problems with glare from lights, and the need to frequently change contact lens or eyeglass prescriptions.
Diabetic Retinopathy: This serious complication of diabetes often causes no symptoms early on. As it progresses, signs include blurred vision, floaters (spots or strings floating in the line of vision), impaired color vision, blind spots, and vision loss. This eye disease impacts nearly 7.7 million Americans aged 40 and older, but the rapid increase in the incidence of diabetes will likely cause this figure to rise.
Hyperopia: When uncorrected, farsightedness makes near objects appear blurry, while distant objects are usually sharp. Nearly 14.2 million (8.4%) Americans aged 40 and older are farsighted. This common refractive error is corrected with contact lenses or eyeglasses.
Myopia: The cartoon character Mr. Magoo suffered from extreme nearsightedness, which resulted in all sorts of hilarious situations caused by objects further away than a few inches appearing blurry. More than 34 million (23.9%) of Americans aged 40 and older are nearsighted, but global rates of myopia are increasing rapidly, especially in children and young adults. Contacts lenses or eyeglasses can correct most cases unless you are a severe myopic like Magoo!
Back in the day, you might have experienced this common symptom if you binge read trashy Harlequin romance books. Nowadays, digital eye strain is incredibly common because we can’t seem to pry ourselves away from our computer screens, while smartphones have become veritable appendages attached to our faces. Also called Computer Vision Syndrome, this problem can cause fatigue, dry eyes, and temporary blurred vision.
Unless you’re playing an extra in a zombie movie or dressing up like the walking dead for Halloween, this is likely not the desired look. Red eyes occur when tiny blood vessels located between the sclera (white of the eye) and clear conjunctiva become dilated. Red or “bloodshot” eyes can also cause irritation, burning, itching, dryness, pain, watery eyes, discharge, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Unless you really dig the color pink and want to coordinate the white of your eyes with your wardrobe, you’ll find this common condition a nuisance. An inflammation of the conjunctiva, pink eye is especially contagious among young children. It is typically caused by bacterial/viral infections or an allergic reaction. In addition to red eyes, many people experience itchiness, irritation, and a gritty feeling in one or both eyes.
Dry Eye: If you’ve ever gotten sand in your eyes while frolicking on the beach, it’s a good analogy for this condition. An estimated 3.2 million women and 1.68 million men aged 50 and older in the U.S. have dry eye syndrome. Irritation and red eyes are other common signs of dry eye.
Eye Trauma: That gal who was hit with a badminton shuttlecock almost certainly had red eyes after the incident. It’s kind of a no brainer that when your eye is injured, you’ll experience some redness. In more serious cases, permanent eye damage is a possibility.
Glaucoma (Acute angle-closure): Glaucoma is often called the silent thief of sight because many people don’t experience any symptoms until some vision loss has occurred. But this rarer form of glaucoma is associated with a sudden and rapid onset of increased intraocular eye pressure. Signs include red eyes, swollen corneas, seeing haloes around lights, blurred vision, intense eye pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Uveitis: Inflammation of the uvea (the middle layer of the eye that consists of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid) can cause red eyes, light sensitivity, decreased visual acuity, and eye pain. This serious eye condition impacts an estimated 280,000 people ages 20 to 50 in the U.S. and can lead to numerous complications when left untreated, including permanent loss of vision.
Environmental Causes of Red Eye
- Airborne allergens
- Airborne fumes (e.g. gasoline, solvents, etc.)
- Air pollution
- Smoke (e.g. fire-related, cigarette or marijuana smoke)
- Dry air
- Chemical exposure (e.g. chlorine in swimming pools)
- Overexposure to sunlight (if you aren’t wearing UV-blocking sunglasses)
While some of these problems can be treated at home, more serious conditions require seeing an eye doctor and some may necessitate immediate medical attention.
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