Health Topics

Eyes and vision

Eye Care
National Library of Medicine
Eye health
Eye safety

Your eyes are an important part of your health. Most people rely on their eyes to see and make sense of the world around them. But some eye diseases can lead to vision loss, so it is important to identify and treat eye diseases as early as possible. You should get your eyes checked as often as your health care provider recommends it, or if you have any new vision problems. And just as it is important to keep your body healthy, you also need to keep your eyes healthy.

Eye Care Tips

There are things you can do to help keep your eyes healthy and make sure you are seeing your best:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your diet should include plenty or fruits and vegetables, especially deep yellow and green leafy vegetables. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also help your eyes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk of developing diabetes. Having diabetes puts you at higher risk of getting diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise may help to prevent or control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These diseases can lead to some eye or vision problems. So if you exercise regularly, you can lower your risk of getting these eye and vision problems.
  • Wear sunglasses.Sun exposure can damage your eyes and raise your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Protect your eyes by using sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
  • Wear protective eye wear. To prevent eye injuries, you need eye protection when playing certain sports, working in jobs such as factory work and construction, and doing repairs or projects in your home.
  • Avoid smoking. Smoking increases the risk of developing age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts and can damage the optic nerve.
  • Know your family health history. Some eye diseases are inherited, so it is important to find out whether anyone in your family has had them. This can help you determine if you are at higher risk of developing an eye disease.
  • Know your other risk factors. As you get older, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. It is important to know you risk factors because you may be able to lower your risk by changing some behaviors.
  • If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent eye infections. Wash your hands well before you put in or take out your contact lenses. Also follow the instructions on how to properly clean them, and replace them when needed.
  • Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time using a computer, you can forget to blink your eyes and your eyes can get tired. To reduce eyestrain, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
Eye Tests and Exams

Everyone needs to have their eyesight tested to check for vision and eye problems. Children usually have vision screening in school or at their health care provider's office during a checkup. Adults may also get vision screenings during their checkups. But many adults need more than a vision screening. They need a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

Getting comprehensive dilated eye exams is especially important because some eye diseases may not have warning signs. The exams are the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages, when they are easier to treat.

The exam includes several tests:

  • A visual field test to measure your side (peripheral) vision. A loss of peripheral vision may be a sign of glaucoma.
  • A visual acuity test, where you read an eye chart about 20 feet away, to check on how well you see at various distances
  • Tonometry, which measures your eye's interior pressure. It helps to detect glaucoma.
  • Dilation, which involves getting eye drops that dilate (widen) your pupils. This allows more light to enter the eye. Your eye care provider examines your eyes using a special magnifying lens. This provides a clear view of important tissues at the back of your eye, including the retina, macula, and optic nerve.

If you have a refractive error and are going to need glasses or contacts, then you will also have a refraction test. When you have this test, you look through a device that has lenses of different strengths to help your eye care professional figure out which lenses will give you the clearest vision.

At what age you should start getting these exams and how often you need them depends on many factors. They include your age, race, and overall health. For example, if you are African American, you are at higher risk of glaucoma and you need to start getting the exams earlier. If you have diabetes, you should get an exam every year. Check with your health care provider about if and when you need these exams.


Eye
Eyes and Vision
Your eyes are an important part of your health. Most people rely on their eyes to see and make sense of the world around them. But some eye diseases can lead ...
Vision Impairment and Blindness
National Library of Medicine
Blindness
Low Vision

If you have low vision, eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery may not help. Activities like reading, shopping, cooking, writing, and watching TV may be hard to do. The leading causes of low vision and blindness in the United States are age-related eye diseases: macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma. Other eye disorders, eye injuries, and birth defects can also cause vision loss.

Whatever the cause, lost vision cannot be restored. It can, however, be managed. A loss of vision means that you may have to reorganize your life and learn new ways of doing things. If you have some vision, visual aids such as special glasses and large print books can make life easier. There are also devices to help those with no vision, like text-reading software and braille books.

The sooner vision loss or eye disease is found and treated, the greater your chances of keeping your remaining vision. You should have regular comprehensive eye exams by an eye care professional.

NIH: National Eye Institute


Vision Disorders
Eyes and Vision
If you have low vision, eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery may not help. Activities like reading, shopping, cooking, writing, and watching ...
Glaucoma
National Library of Medicine

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye's optic nerve. It is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. It usually happens when the fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, damaging the optic nerve. Often there are no symptoms at first. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral, or side vision. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead vision may decrease until no vision remains.

A comprehensive eye exam can tell if you have glaucoma. People at risk should get eye exams at least every two years. They include

  • African Americans over age 40
  • People over age 60, especially Mexican Americans
  • People with a family history of glaucoma

There is no cure, but glaucoma can usually be controlled. Early treatment can help protect your eyes against vision loss. Treatments usually include prescription eyedrops and/or surgery.

NIH: National Eye Institute


Glaucoma
Seniors
Eyes and Vision
... usually happens when the fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, damaging the optic nerve. Often there are no symptoms at first. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral, or side vision. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. ...
Eye Wear
National Library of Medicine
Contact Lenses
Eyeglasses
Glasses
Protective Eye Wear

Eye wear protects or corrects your vision. Examples are

  • Sunglasses
  • Safety goggles
  • Glasses (also called eyeglasses)
  • Contact lenses

If you need corrective lenses, you may be able to choose between contacts or glasses. Either usually requires a prescription. Almost anyone can wear glasses. Contact lenses require more careful handling.

Many jobs and some sports carry a risk of eye injury. Thousands of children and adults get eye injuries every year. Most are preventable with proper eye protection. Everyone is at risk for eye damage from the sun year-round. It's important to regularly use sunglasses that block out at least 99 percent of UV rays.


Eyeglasses
Contact Lenses
Eyes and Vision
Eye wear protects or corrects your vision. Examples are Sunglasses Safety goggles Glasses (also called eyeglasses) Contact lenses If you need corrective lenses, ...
Retinal Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Floater

The retina is a layer of tissue in the back of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain. In the center of this nerve tissue is the macula. It provides the sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail.

Retinal disorders affect this vital tissue. They can affect your vision, and some can be serious enough to cause blindness. Examples are

  • Macular degeneration - a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision
  • Diabetic eye disease
  • Retinal detachment - a medical emergency, when the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye
  • Retinoblastoma - cancer of the retina. It is most common in young children.
  • Macular pucker - scar tissue on the macula
  • Macular hole - a small break in the macula that usually happens to people over 60
  • Floaters - cobwebs or specks in your field of vision

NIH: National Eye Institute


Retinal Diseases
Eyes and Vision
... layer of tissue in the back of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain. In the center of this nerve tissue is the macula. It provides the sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail. ...
Eye Diseases
National Library of Medicine
Ophthalmology
Pinguecula

Some eye problems are minor and don't last long. But some can lead to a permanent loss of vision.

Common eye problems include

  • Refractive errors
  • Cataracts - clouded lenses
  • Optic nerve disorders, including glaucoma
  • Retinal disorders - problems with the nerve layer at the back of the eye
  • Macular degeneration - a disease that destroys sharp, central vision
  • Diabetic eye problems
  • Conjunctivitis - an infection also known as pinkeye

Your best defense is to have regular checkups, because eye diseases do not always have symptoms. Early detection and treatment could prevent vision loss. See an eye care professional right away if you have a sudden change in vision, if everything looks dim, or if you see flashes of light. Other symptoms that need quick attention are pain, double vision, fluid coming from the eye, and inflammation.

NIH: National Eye Institute


Eye Diseases
Eyes and Vision
Some eye problems are minor and don't last long. But some can lead to a permanent loss of vision. Common eye problems include Refractive errors Cataracts - ...
Amblyopia
National Library of Medicine
Lazy Eye

Amblyopia, or "lazy eye," is the most common cause of visual impairment in children. It happens when an eye fails to work properly with the brain. The eye may look normal, but the brain favors the other eye. In some cases, it can affect both eyes. Causes include

  • Strabismus - a disorder in which the two eyes don't line up in the same direction
  • Refractive error in an eye - when one eye cannot focus as well as the other, because of a problem with its shape. This includes nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
  • Cataract - a clouding in the lens of the eye

It can be hard to diagnose amblyopia. It is often found during a routine vision exam.

Treatment for amblyopia forces the child to use the eye with weaker vision. There are two common ways to do this. One is to have the child wear a patch over the good eye for several hours each day, over a number of weeks to months. The other is with eye drops that temporarily blur vision. Each day, the child gets a drop of a drug called atropine in the stronger eye. It is also sometimes necessary to treat the underlying cause. This could include glasses or surgery.

NIH: National Eye Institute


Amblyopia
Eyes and Vision
Amblyopia, or "lazy eye," is the most common cause of visual impairment in children. It happens when an eye fails to work properly with the brain. The eye may look ...
Refractive Errors
National Library of Medicine
Artificial Lens
Astigmatism
Farsightedness
Hyperopia
Intraocular Lens
Myopia
Nearsightedness
Presbyopia

The cornea and lens of your eye helps you focus. Refractive errors are vision problems that happen when the shape of the eye keeps you from focusing well. The cause could be the length of the eyeball (longer or shorter), changes in the shape of the cornea, or aging of the lens.

Four common refractive errors are

  • Myopia, or nearsightedness - clear vision close up but blurry in the distance
  • Hyperopia, or farsightedness - clear vision in the distance but blurry close up
  • Presbyopia - inability to focus close up as a result of aging
  • Astigmatism - focus problems caused by the cornea

The most common symptom is blurred vision. Other symptoms may include double vision, haziness, glare or halos around bright lights, squinting, headaches, or eye strain.

Glasses or contact lenses can usually correct refractive errors. Laser eye surgery may also be a possibility.

NIH: National Eye Institute


Refractive Errors
Eyes and Vision
The cornea and lens of your eye helps you focus. Refractive errors are vision problems that happen when the shape of the eye keeps you from focusing well. ...
Cataract
National Library of Medicine
Artificial Lens
Intraocular Lens

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye. It affects your vision. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

A cataract can occur in either or both eyes. It cannot spread from one eye to the other. Common symptoms are

  • Blurry vision
  • Colors that seem faded
  • Glare - headlights, lamps or sunlight may seem too bright. You may also see a halo around lights.
  • Not being able to see well at night
  • Double vision
  • Frequent prescription changes in your eye wear

Cataracts usually develop slowly. New glasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses can help at first. Surgery is also an option. It involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help to delay cataracts.

NIH: National Eye Institute


Cataract
Seniors
Eyes and Vision
... is a clouding of the lens in your eye. It affects your vision. Cataracts are very common in older people. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. A cataract can occur in either or both eyes. It cannot spread from one eye to the ...
Eye Injuries
National Library of Medicine
Protective Eye Wear

The structure of your face helps protect your eyes from injury. Still, injuries can damage your eye, sometimes severely enough that you could lose your vision. Most eye injuries are preventable. If you play sports or work in certain jobs, you may need protection.

The most common type of injury happens when something irritates the outer surface of your eye. Certain jobs such as industrial jobs or hobbies such as carpentry make this type of injury more likely. It's also more likely if you wear contact lenses.

Chemicals or heat can burn your eyes. With chemicals, the pain may cause you to close your eyes. This traps the irritant next to the eye and may cause more damage. You should wash out your eye right away while you wait for medical help.


Eye Injuries
Eyes and Vision
Injuries and Wounds
... eyes from injury. Still, injuries can damage your eye, sometimes severely enough that you could lose your vision. Most eye injuries are preventable. If you play ...