As you get older, you’re more likely to experience diseases of the eye. Many of these conditions are treatable, though early detection often plays a significant role in the ultimate success of treatment, which is why frequent ophthalmologic exams are so important. In the absence of intervention, these diseases could cause loss of vision.

The most common eye diseases to occur in people over 40 include glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. Ophthalmologists like Dr. Rohit Varma specialize in the study, diagnosis, and treatment of these diseases.

Common Eye Diseases

Glaucoma

Your eye is full of fluid called aqueous humor. There is a mesh-like channel that allows the fluid to flow out of your eye, maintaining a consistent pressure. For reasons that are not always clear, but may be linked to genetics, sometimes the channel gets blocked, which can cause the pressure inside your eye to increase, resulting in glaucoma.

The increased pressure can cause damage to your optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss because the nerve is no longer able to transmit images to your brain. Glaucoma may be treated with medications, laser treatments, or surgery.

Cataracts

The purpose of the lens, which is positioned near the front of your eye behind the iris (colored portion), is to focus the light that passes through your pupil and allow your retina to receive a sharp, clear image, which is then transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain. Changes to the lens tissue can cause the clouding characteristic of cataracts.

Cataracts can form due to age, but diseases and injuries can also produce similar changes to the tissue of the lens. When the lens becomes clouded by cataracts, it makes it difficult for light to enter the eye, which can affect your vision in many different ways. You may experience double vision, blurring, photosensitivity, and decreased night vision.

You may perceive a yellowish tint to colors or find them faded, or you may start seeing halos around lights. Cataracts are treated with a surgical procedure that removes the clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial one.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration produces abnormalities of the retina, which is located in the back of the eye and consists of light-sensing nerve tissue. There are two different types of macular degeneration, named for the specific types of abnormalities they produce.

The most common type of macular degeneration is called the dry form, which causes yellow deposits, or drusen, to form in the retina, which can cause vision loss as they become more prevalent and increase in size.

The other, less common, form of macular degeneration is the wet form, which causes the development of abnormal blood vessels in the retina that lead to scarring and permanent vision loss. While laser therapy, medication, or surgery may slow down the progress of macular degeneration, there is no cure.

An eye doctor can perform screening and tests to diagnose these and other conditions during an eye exam. It is important to have an exam on a regular basis: at least once a year, or as your ophthalmologist recommends.