Symptoms can develop over many years, and usually affect older people.
Over time, the lens (the transparent structure at the front of the eye) gradually becomes cloudy. Your vision may:
- be blurred
- be cloudy or misty
- have small spots or dots on it (patches where your sight is not as clear)
It isn’t possible to prevent cataracts. However, you can reduce the risk of them developing.
As well as your age, the following factors may increase your risk of developing a cataract:
- a history of cataracts in your family
- lifestyle factors, such as a poor diet
- overexposing your eyes to sunlight
- taking steroid medicines (medicines that contain powerful chemicals called hormones) for a long time
certain health conditions, such as diabetes.
Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment in the UK. There is currently no treatment for dry macular degeneration
- loss of visual acuity: the ability to detect fine details, or small distances, for example when you read or drive loss of contrast sensitivity
- the ability to see less well-defined objects, such as faces, clearly.
If you have macular degeneration, your central vision will still be blurred, even when you wear glasses.
A number of factors may increase your risk of developing macular degeneration.
- Age. The older you get, the more at risk you are of developing macular degeneration.
- Gender. Macular degeneration is more common in women than it is in men.
- Genetics. It is thought that a problem with a certain gene may play a role in macular degeneration. Smoking.
- Studies have shown that people who smoke or have smoked in the past are nearly four times more likely to develop AMD than people who have never smoked.
- Sunlight. To protect yourself, you should wear sunglasses in bright sunlight.
- Alcohol. It is possible that drinking more than four units of alcohol a day may increase your risk of having early AMD.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the network of tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the retina.
If you have diabetes, you are 20 times more likely to develop vision problems than the rest of the population.
Having high blood pressure can make the blood vessels in the eyes more susceptible to damage and increases the risk of developing advanced diabetic retinopathy.
The most effective way of preventing high blood pressure is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day).
You should also exercise regularly, and do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity.
Give up smoking, it will also help lower blood pressure because smoking increases blood pressure.
Drinking alcohol can also increase blood pressure, keep to the recommended limits
Glaucoma is a term that describes a group of eye conditions that affect vision. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness. But if it is diagnosed and treated early enough, further damage to vision can be prevented
Glaucoma occurs when the drainage tubes (trabecular meshwork) within the eye become slightly blocked, preventing the aqueous humour from draining properly. An obstruction within the eye, such as a blood vessel blocking the trabecular meshwork, can also prevent fluid from draining properly.
There are various factors that can increase your risk of developing glaucoma.
- Age: glaucoma becomes more likely as you get older.
- Ethnic origin: people of African, Afro-Caribbean or Asian origin are at increased risk of developing glaucoma.
- Short sightedness (myopia): people who are short-sighted are more likely to develop chronic open-angle glaucoma.
- Ocular hypertension (OHT – raised pressure in the eye):
- Family history: if you have a close relative, such as a parent, brother or sister who has glaucoma, you are at increased risk of developing the condition yourself.
- Medical history: people with diabetes may be at increased risk of developing glaucoma.
Attending regular optician appointments will help to ensure that any signs of glaucoma can be detected early and allow treatment to begin. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness.
Vision problems as a result of stroke
This type of field loss refers to not being able to see either to the left or right from the centre of the field of vision. People who suffer from a stroke to one side of the brain may develop field loss to the opposite side. The extent of field loss can vary and is directly related to the area of the brain that has been affected by the stroke. Often people may lose half of their visual field meaning they can only see with either the right or left half of each eye – this is called hemianopia.
Hemianopia is a loss of one half of the visual field.
As we get older our arteries become narrower but certain risk factors can dangerously accelerate the process. Risk factors include:
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- high cholesterol levels (often caused by a high-fat diet, but can result from inherited factors)
- a family history of heart disease or diabetes
- excessive alcohol intake