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Common ocular conditions

Myopia or short-sightedness is an eye condition where objects can be seen clearly up close, but objects in the distance are blurry. Myopia occurs if the eyeball is too long or the power of the eye is too strong. As negative lens prescription reduces the power of the eye so that distance objects can be focussed on to the back of the eye (retina).

Myopia usually progresses until the person is in their early-mid twenties.

Hyperopia or long-sightedness is where distant objects can be seen clearly, but objects up close appear blurry. This usually occurs if the eyeball is smaller than normal or the power of the eye is not sufficient. A plus lens prescription aids the eyes so they do not overwork and result in strain or blurry vision.

Symptoms of hyperopia include eye strain or ache especially after computer or reading and fluctuating distance and near vision.

Astigmatism is a very common eye condition that results from the cornea having two different curvatures rather than one, so appears to have an oval rather than a spherical surface. A toric lens is required to correct the individual curves in order to get focussed clear vision.

Symptoms of astigmatism include de-focussed vision at all distances and ghosting or shadowing around detailed images.

Presbyopia is an age-related change where the lens of the eye slowly loses its accommodation. This normally starts after 40 years of age for most people.

Symptoms of presbyopia are similar to those experienced by hyperopia, as essentially the eye gets weaker in its ability to change focus.

ARMD is caused by the waste deposits of the eye not being cleared from the central vision region of the retina (macula). Symptoms may include distortions, patches of missing central vision which can progress to complete irreversible central vision loss.

Research has shown that a good diet of fruit and green leafy vegetables containing antioxidants (vitamin C, A, E, zinc, lutein etc) can reduce the risk of developing ARMD.

A cataract is another age related change where the lens becomes progressively opaque. Symptoms include the feeling of a “film” or translucent haze over your vision and increased sensitivity to sunlight (glare). Initially, spectacles and sunglasses can alleviate the symptoms of a cataract, but in later stages this can only be corrected via surgery.

Glaucoma is a disease characterised by loss of peripheral vision caused by the reduction of nerves fibres at the back of the eye (optic nerve and retina). Normally, you do not notice any symptoms until over 50% of the nerve fibres in your eye have been lost.

Early stages of glaucoma can only be detected through an eye examination where your eye pressures are measured, your optic nerves are assessed and your visual fields are analysed. If you have a family history of glaucoma, it is important to have regular eye examinations, especially after the age of 40.

Dry eyes is a common problem caused due to inflammation (blepharitis) or blocked oil glands (meibomian gland dysfuction) in your eyelids. The eyes feel sore, gritty and look red and water excessively in windy or excessively dry environments (air conditioned or heated rooms)

Dry eyes can be treated by reducing the inflammation, unblocking the oil glands and improving the tear film by either eye drops, eyelid therapy or omega-3 supplements.

This is the eye manifestation of seasonal or chronic allergies. The eyes feel itchy, are often red and water excessively, especially when rubbed. Eye drops and anti-histamine tablets reduce the symptoms, which is important as eye rubbing because of allergies leads to a condition called keratoconus, which affects the cornea of the eye leading to high amounts of astigmatism and thinning of the surface of the eye.

A pingueculum is an abnormal growth of tissue usually found on the whites of the eye. It is usually caused by chronic exposure to the environment including sun and wind exposure. If the pingueculum grows so that it affects vision, it is called a pterygium. Treatment may include the use of artificial tears and sun protection with sunglasses. In some serious cases, surgery may be required.

These are commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections of the eye. The most common symptoms are red, sore eyes, with lots of discharge and sometimes blurry vision. Contact lens wearers are especially at risk of bacterial infections, while viral infections are more common if you have had the flu or there is an outbreak of conjunctivits in your environment (school, work, etc).

It is always best to get a sore, red eye checked as soon as possible as some infections can progress rapidly or can be a sign of a more serious condition.