Eye disease: four conditions that affect your vision

As you age, your eyesight becomes more at risk of several common eye diseases that can drastically affect your vision. Regular eye tests are vital when it comes to looking after your eye health but knowing the signs and symptoms of certain eye conditions can also help. Here are the symptoms of four eye conditions that become more common as you get older: 

1. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD most commonly starts in your 50s or 60s. It only affects your central vision — when you’re looking straight ahead at something. So while it doesn’t cause total sight loss, it can significantly affect your quality of life if left untreated. 

What are the symptoms of AMD?

There are two types of AMD — wet and dry — and the symptoms depend on the type you have. Dry AMD is the most common type and slowly progresses over years. Symptoms include:

  • Blind spots in your central vision
  • Colours looking less bright
  • Difficulty recognising faces
  • Needing brighter lights for reading
  • Problems adapting to low light
  • Visual distortions or blurred vision

Wet AMD occurs more suddenly with more severe symptoms. It can cause your vision to rapidly decline, resulting in a loss of central vision, blurriness or blind spots. 

Treating AMD

There is no cure for AMD, but it can be slowed down by:

  • Eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise
  • Getting other eye and health conditions treated
  • Having regular eye tests
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Protecting your eyes from the sun
  • Stopping smoking

If you are diagnosed with wet AMD, you’ll need medication to stop it becoming more serious. This usually involves injections into your eye every four to six weeks. 

2. Cataracts

Cataracts are caused by cloudy patches forming on the lenses of your eyes and are common over the age of 50. They can affect your vision and, if left untreated, cause blindness. However, cataracts are reversible with surgery. 

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

Cataract symptoms include:

  • Blurred or misty vision
  • Colours that look faded
  • Difficulty seeing in low light
  • Lights that appear too bright

If you wear glasses, you find that your glasses seem dirty even after you’ve just cleaned them — in fact, it's the lenses in your eyes that are cloudy.

Treating cataracts

If your cataracts are not significantly affecting your vision, your optometrist may first suggest a stronger prescription for your glasses.

Your cataracts will continue to worsen over time and will eventually need surgery, where the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. 

After recovering from surgery, you will most likely need to wear prescription glasses. This is because your artificial lens will not be able to focus at all distances as natural lenses can. 

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition that damages the optic nerve — the nerve that connects your eyes to your brain. It’s caused by high pressure in the fluid of your eye and is more common in those aged over 60.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

The most common type of glaucoma, chronic (long-term) glaucoma, damages your vision so gradually that you likely won’t notice any symptoms until it reaches the later stages.

Diagnosing the condition early is key to stopping it from progressing and preventing further vision loss. Early symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Rainbow-coloured rings around bright lights

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is less common and comes on suddenly — it is a medical emergency. Call 999 or go to A&E if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain and a severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Red eyes
  • Seeing rings around lights
  • Tenderness around your eyes

Treating glaucoma

Glaucoma treatment can’t repair vision loss that has already occurred but it can prevent further vision loss. The treatment you receive will depend on the type of glaucoma you have.

Treatments include:

  • Eye drops
  • Laser treatment
  • Surgery

4. Diabetic retinopathy

People with diabetes are at risk of diabetic retinopathy. It’s caused by high blood sugar levels damaging your retina and can cause blindness if left untreated. 

Anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, but you are more at risk if:

  • You have high cholesterol
  • Your blood pressure is high
  • Your blood sugar levels are persistently high
  • You’re of African, Afro-Caribbean or Asian descent
  • You’re pregnant
  • You’ve had diabetes for a long time

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

Early-stage symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are not obvious, so you might not notice them. While it can be picked up early during a diabetic eye screening, common noticeable symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eye pain or redness
  • Gradually worsening vision
  • Shapes appearing to float in your vision
  • Sudden loss of vision

Treating diabetic retinopathy

In most cases, diabetic retinopathy can be treated by better managing your diabetes. This means:

  • Attending all your eye screening appointments
  • Controlling your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Taking your diabetes medication

If your diabetes is well-controlled but your condition persists, you may need treatment such as:

  • Laser treatment
  • Medication injected into your eyes
  • Surgery

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.