Understanding Common Eye Disorders

Monday 22 February 2021
Eye Disorders

Table of Contents


I. How does the Eye Function?

II. Age-Related Eye Problems

a. Glaucoma

b. Macular Degeneration

c. Cataracts

III. Allergy-Related Eye Problems

IV. Chronic Dry Eyes & Surgery


The eyes are integral in everything we do, and they must remain in working order. Every aspect of life hinges on our eyes' ability. If a malfunction occurs, our quality of life can be affected. Many eye disorders occur as we age, including glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. Other disorders may be seasonal and related to allergies or dry eye.

There are several medications available to aid in age-related disorders, including Azopt (brinzolamide) eye drops. Patanol (olopatadine) eye drops, Zaditor eye drops, Lotemax (loteprednol), and Restasis (cyclosporine ophthalmic) may be used for eye disorders related to allergies, dry eye, and eye surgery. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and treatments for common eye disorders. 

How does the Eye Function?

The eyes are one of the most intricate organs of the body. If one aspect of the eye goes wrong or suffers an injury, a person's entire field of vision may be affected. That is why it is essential to understand the eyes' basic function before common eye disorders are addressed.

a diagram of the human eye

To start, light passes through the cornea, which is the clear layer at the front of the eye. This structure is dome-shaped and bends light to help the eye focus. Once the light enters the cornea, some of it passes through the small hole in the eye’s center (the pupil). The iris regulates how much light passes into the pupil. 

The light then hits the retina, a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. In the retina, there are special cells that turn that light into electrical signals. These signals travel through the optic nerve and into the brain, where the brain turns them into images we can see. Tears are also an integral part of the eye, and moisture must be present for the eye to function correctly. [1]

Age-Related Eye Problems

Many eye problems occur as we age. The eyes age just as the rest of the body does and the eyes may lose their ability to see as effectively. Along with vision problems, more serious conditions may also occur. Learn more about these conditions below. 

a. Glaucoma 

Glaucoma is a condition that involves damage to the optic nerve. Over time, the pressure in the eye may increase and cause blindness if left untreated. As you age, the optic nerve may deteriorate, and blind spots may develop in the field of vision.

Aqueous humor is the fluid that flows throughout the inside of the eye, which normally flows out through tissue called the trabecular meshwork. When this fluid accumulates, or the drainage doesn't work properly eye pressure increases. Your doctor may prescribe Azopt (brinzolamide) eye drops to treat this condition. The types of glaucoma include:

Open-angle: This is the most common type of glaucoma that happens when the trabecular meshwork is partially blocked. Eye pressure will gradually increase, and vision loss occurs slowly.

Angle-closure: The iris bulges forward and blocks the drainage angle for the fluid. Fluid cannot circulate when this is occurring, and eye pressure increases. This is typically a medical emergency.

Normal-tension: This results in optic nerve damage, resulting from a sensitive optic nerve and less blood supplied to the nerve. It may occur due to atherosclerosis (a fatty buildup in the arteries).

Pigmentary: Granules of pigment from the iris may build up and block fluid exiting the eye. Jogging or running may displace pigment and cause an increase in eye pressure. [2]

a woman undergoing an eye exam

b. Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 60. It occurs when the macula (central part of the retina) deteriorates. Complete blindness is not common, but severe vision loss may occur. Symptoms of macular degeneration include:

  • Gradual or sudden change in your quality of vision
  • Dark, blurry area in the center of the vision
  • Whiteout areas in the center of the vision
  • Change in color perception

There are two types of macular degeneration:

Dry AMD: Around 85 to 90 percent of AMD patients have this type. Fat and protein called drusen may accumulate under the retina and affect the retina’s processing of light. The exact cause of drusen accumulation is unknown, but drusen keep oxygen from reaching the eye. This type occurs slowly and is not as severe as wet AMD.

Wet AMD: Wet AMD usually progresses much more quickly than dry AMD. Blood vessels form in the eye underneath the macula, which then leak blood and fluid into the eye. No one knows why these vessels form, but they can cause permanent damage to vision. [3]

c. Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and obstructs vision. Over time, the proteins in the eyes break down and cause the vision to look blurry, hazy, or less colorful. Those over 60 usually start to notice a clouding in their lenses, but noticeable vision changes may not occur until several years later. Eye injury, diabetes, genetics, sun exposure, and certain medications may also lead to cataract formation. Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Seeing bright colors as faded or yellow
  • Extra sensitivity to light
  • Double vision [4] 

Allergy-Related Eye Problems 

Everyone has experienced some eye discomfort in their life. Itchy and watery eyes are unpleasant symptoms, and many seek out quick remedies to rid themselves of these symptoms. Allergic conjunctivitis is the most common type of eye allergy experienced in the spring, summer, or fall. The most common symptoms include itching, redness, burning, and a clear discharge from the eye. 

Your eyelids may become puffy, along with a runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Everyone's allergens differ, but many people are triggered by plant pollens that bloom seasonally. Other allergens like pet dander may also trigger allergy symptoms. You may be prescribed Patanol (olopatadine) eye drops or Zaditor eye drops to combat itchy and red eyes. [5] 

a woman blowing her nose in front of yellow plants

Chronic Dry Eyes & Surgery

Dry eyes are a common problem for thousands of people across the country. This condition occurs when there aren't enough tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. As mentioned earlier, tears are necessary for maintaining the eye's surface and providing clear vision. When you blink, tears spread across the cornea and help reduce infections and wash away foreign matters.

Dry eyes are caused by an inadequate amount of tears or poor quality of tears. Medications and age may affect the number of tears, causing problems when tears evaporate too quickly. If the tears lack one of their three layers (oil, water, and mucus), they may not spread evenly over the cornea. Restasis (cyclosporine ophthalmic) may be prescribed if you have this condition. Symptoms of chronic dry eye include:

  • Redness
  • Stinging, scratching, or burning sensations
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Strongly mucus near the eye [6]

In other cases, you may be prescribed Lotemax (loteprednol) to assist in inflammation or redness after surgery. If you undergo eye surgery, you may need to use this medication to prevent further eye complications. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing an eye disorder.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.