Vision problems are usually an alarm triggered by our bodies in response to a hidden disease or an eye disorder that we failed to notice in time. Such disturbances will interfere with normal sight and hamper our daily tasks and lifestyle.

There are many types of vision problems on the list, and in this post, we’re going to focus on the most dire of the eye conditions.

Vision Problems – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What is normal vision?

Studies have defined normal vision as the ability to see a certain size line on the Snellen chart – the eye chart – from 20 feet away. Eye doctors call it 20/20 vision.

A 20/40 vision means that, whatever a person with normal vision can see at 40 feet, you can only see at 20. To put it simply: the larger the second number, the worse the vision. If you experience any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with your eye care provider as soon as possible.

Signs of Vision Problems

  • Hazy, blurred, or double vision.
  • The inability to see objects clearly.
  • Severe, recurrent, or sudden eye pain.
  • Flashes of light, bright spots.
  • Blind spots, or scotomas.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight or glare.
  • Itching, burning or discharge in the eyes.
  • Seeing halos around lights.
  • Spotting ‘spider webs’, ‘a curtain coming down over the eye’, or ‘a cup filling up with ink’ in one eye.
  • Changes in the color of the iris.
  • Under-reaching or over-reaching for objects.
  • Brushing against walls or hitting objects while walking.
  • Squinting to watch the TV screen.
  • Tilting the head to the side to focus on an object.
  • Reading holding the paper too close to the face.

Several conditions may be the cause of mild to severe vision problems.

Causes of Vision Problems

1. Glaucoma

vision problems

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can lead to blindness by blocking the eye’s drainage canals and damaging the optic nerve.

The eye continuously produces a fluid, called the aqueous. Its role is to drain and depressurize the eye. The most common type of glaucoma is Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, where the undrained fluid swells up in the eye and causes pressure.

Glaucoma is an elusive vision problem. No wonder it’s been dubbed ‘the sneak thief of sight.’ Most people don’t recognize the early onset of this eye condition because no symptoms are apparent at first.

The first sign of it is when the peripheral vision is already disappearing through a narrow tube. The effect will be a constricted, tunnel-like visual field.

People suffering from glaucoma will bump into objects that are on the side of the body, at foot level, or near the head.

Glaucoma can be treated, but not cured. Having an eye pressure check, or tonometry, as early as age 35 is recommended.

2. Multiple sclerosis

MS, or multiple sclerosis, is a disease hard to track because of its many unpredictable symptoms. These can vary in intensity and duration. Mild cases of MS will experience fatigue and dizziness, while in severe circumstances, paralysis, brain impairment, and vision loss occur.

One of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis is degeneration of clear vision. You may not notice it immediately, as it’s slow developing and unaccompanied by pain. The eye goes through stages from blurry to complete loss of vision.

Vision problems in MS are brought about by the inflammation of the optic nerve. The doctor will perform an eye exam to check for any signs of disease.

MS affects approximately 2,3 million people worldwide, with a visible prevalence in women. Hereditary factors play a role as well.

Other early signs of MS include:

  • Tingling and numbness.
  • Spasm and pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Bladder problems.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sexual dysfunction.

3. Cataract

vision problems

Cataracts develop painlessly and slowly, but that doesn’t stop it from being the principal cause of blindness in the world. According to Prevent Blindness America, there are more cases of cataracts globally than there are of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration combined.

Cataract manifests as a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil.

Normally, the lens should be clear and focusing light at full capacity. As a person advances in age, proteins in the lens clump together and begin to break down. As a result, a sort of cloudiness blurs the vision, like someone breathing on a cold window.

Besides advancing age, other risk factors that may speed cataract formation are:

  • Diabetes.
  • Radiation exposure.
  • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.
  • Hypertension.
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications or other medicines.
  • Obesity.
  • Smoking.
  • Eye inflammation or previous eye injury.
  • Previous eye surgery.
  • Family history of cataracts.
  • High myopia.
  • Treatment replacing hormones.

In many cases, the causes for cataract are unknown.

When vision problems begin to appear, you may be able to postpone surgery for a while with glasses, bifocals, or contact lenses.

Sooner than later, though, you will have to undergo a surgical procedure. In the USA, more than 3 million Americans a year opt for cataract surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear, brand new intraocular lens, or lens implant.

4. Diabetes

vision problems

Diabetes that can harm the small blood vessels in the retina is called diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, diabetes can be a cause for glaucoma, cataracts, and other vision problems.

Diabetes vision problems are one of the primary causes of blindness in Americans 20 to 74 years old.

The retina is the layer of tissue located at the back of the inner eye. Its role is to transform light and images into nerve signals, which the brain then receives and process into the image that you see.

More often than not, diabetic retinopathy presents no symptoms. Not until it’s too late and the damage to the eye is already severe. Some signs of possible diabetic retinopathy can be considered:

  • You’ve been a diabetic for a long time.
  • You’re a diabetic and still smoke and have high blood pressure.
  • You haven’t kept your glucose in check.
  • You have blurred vision.
  • You experience slow vision loss.
  • You see floaters, shadows, or black holes.
  • You have trouble seeing at night.
  • You experience bleeding in the eye.

Once you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and develop macular edema, you should consider eye surgery. Three options stand out:

Introocular injections of anti-VEGF are used to shrink the “bad” blood vessels.

The Photocoagulation procedure is a laser eye surgery which creates small burns where the eye doctor detects abnormal blood vessels. Through photocoagulation, the treatment ensures vessels don’t leak or shrink to abnormal sizes.

Vitrectomy is used to stop bleeding of the eye, and also to repair retinal detachment.

5. Presbyopia

vision problems

One type of refractive error, along with myopia and hyperopia, is presbyopia. This vision problem happens naturally with age, which might explain why eye doctors refer to it as the ‘aging eye condition’.

The eye is not able to focus up close, due to lessened muscle fibers around the lens. The lens becomes hard and ineffective, causing light to focus behind the retina.

If you notice any changes in your vision as you age, you should consider making an appointment with your eye doctor. A comprehensive dilated eye exam can diagnose presbyopia.

Signs of presbyopia include:

  • Headaches and eye strain.
  • Problems focusing up close.
  • Problems reading small print, that will make you hold the paper farther than arm’s distance.

6. Macular Degeneration

vision problems

The most common cause of blindness in people over 60 in the United States, macular degeneration is the gradual, painless, and therefore dangerous deterioration of the macula – a small area in the center of the retina.

The macula is the only area that captures details perfectly clear. The rest is peripheral vision and mostly intuitive. Actually, this is the only area that remains undamaged, so individuals with AMD, age-related macular degeneration, can see all around the room.

Needless to say, damage to the center of the retina reduces the clarity of our point of focus. It impairs such activities as reading, watching TV, driving, sewing, etc. Colors also become faded and curved objects straight, as macular degeneration reduces contrast sensitivity.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), about 10% of the 10-15 million individuals affected by age-related macular degeneration have the ‘wet’ type AMD.

Still, this type of neovascular disorder is more rapid and severe. It accounts for approximately 90% of all cases of vision loss from the disease.

7. Stroke

vision problems

The eye is not a separate entity from the rest of you. The optic nerve from each eye travels the length of the brain. No wonder then that damage to your brain can translate into damage to your eyesight.

Up to two-thirds of people have vision problems after a stroke. These are the most common vision deficits among survivors.

  • Visual midline shift is a condition where objects appear tilted. The world suddenly tilts at an angle, and the person will tilt his or her body to balance himself/ herself accordingly.
  • Visual spatial inattention, or neglect, happens when the brain doesn’t receive information about what is seeing on one side. This condition occurs when there is a stroke in the parietal lobe, which carries our spatial map. Not being aware of your surroundings means you’ll constantly bump into people and objects found on the side of the eye.
  • Commonly called a field cut, hemianopia occurs when you lose one side of the visual field. Only the left or the right of what you’re looking at can be seen.
  • Nystagmus is a condition that affects the way you control your eyes. Your eye will be constantly moving and making objects wobble, and this will make measuring distances between objects difficult, for example.

Vision problems cascade into every area of a person’s life. These, coupled with our dependency on the digital screen, will only hamper our lives more if we don’t place our focus on treating them early on.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7