Eye Conditions & Vision Problems: An Overview

Everything you need to know about eye conditions and vision problems, including their causes, common symptoms and treatment paths.

What are eye and vision problems?

Eye conditions and vision problems are generally related to the state of your eye health. Many eye diseases have no easily identifiable symptoms, and many eye conditions are completely painless.

The prevailing symptom that suffers of eye problems report is either loss of or lessened vision – this is the point at which the majority of patients speak to a doctor or optician.

Who is at risk of developing eye conditions?

Some are more at risk of developing eye conditions than others. The following place you at more risk of developing problems with your vision:

  • Being older than 60
  • Being from a family with a history of eye disease
  • Having a learning disability
  • Members of African-Caribbean or South Asian communities – diabetes is common in both communities, and glaucoma is particularly common in the former

Children, though not at greater risk than adults, may struggle or be unable to communicate eye and vision problems as and when they occur. The NHS point out a few warning signs to watch out for that indicate that your child may not be able to see properly:

  • Sitting particularly close to the TV or computer
  • Holding objects very close to their face to read or examine
  • Blinking a lot
  • Rubbing their eyes a lot
  • Either eye turning inwards or outwards

How concerned should you be about vision problems?

It’s natural to be concerned about eye problems, but almost everyone experiences them at some point in their lives. With regular eye tests, you can identify eye conditions that might be developing before they affect your vision.

As a minimum, the NHS recommends having an eye test every two years – though your optician may recommend more frequent appointments depending on your prescription and the condition of your eyes.

How common are eye and vision problems?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision problem globally, and that the majority of people with eye conditions are aged 50 and over.

80% of global visual impairment is, in the WHO’s words, “considered avoidable” – and the leading causes of visual impairment are vision that an individual chooses not to correct with glasses or contact lenses, and cataracts, which can be addressed with surgery.

Your eye condition questions, answered

Illustration of a consultation between patient and doctor

How are eye conditions diagnosed?

See a doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms relating to your eyes – that goes for every notable symptom from visual disturbances to itching eyelids.

Once you have booked an appointment with a doctor, they are likely to perform a series of tests to determine the root cause of your symptoms – typically an eye test or examination, followed by a blood test in some cases. MRI or CT scans may be used for more complicated cases, but the majority of symptoms are explained with the former methods.

How are eye conditions treated?

Once the underlying cause of an eye condition is determined, treatment is usually straightforward. In some cases, eye conditions will go away naturally, but in others, medication, glasses, contact lenses or even dietary changes might be recommended. For more severe cases, surgery might be needed to repair or replace damaged nerves and tissue.

What is the outlook for people with eye conditions?

By regularly attending eye tests, you dramatically reduce the risk of eye conditions developing to the point of causing lasting damage to your eyes, or your vision. The majority of eye conditions are treatable either with glasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery – and 80% of visual impairments are the result of uncorrected vision, and nothing more.

Illustration of a consultation between patient and doctor
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