Cataracts or glaucoma? 10 eye conditions and their symptoms

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When you're young, you tend to not give too much thought to your eyes. Sure, you may need to wear glasses or contacts, and you try to remember to wear sunglasses when it's sunny out. You even wear goggles in the pool. For the majority of your life, your eyes probably work just fine. But some people are born with eye conditions that go beyond nearsightedness, and your eyes, just like the rest of your body, can begin to fail on you as you age. Here are 10 common eye conditions, as well as their most common symptoms, so you know what to look out for.

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Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is just that: the breaking down of the macula, the central area of the retina that is responsible for sharp central vision. While those with macular degeneration won't necessarily go blind, the reduced central vision can mean an inability to read, drive a car or recognize faces.

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Symptoms of macular degeneration

Signs include reduced central vision, straight lines seeming bent, difficulty adapting to low light levels, and lack of ability to make out colors and fine details. Knowing the symptoms of macular degeneration is just one thing people over 40 should know about their health.

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Cataracts

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. When someone develops a cataract, the normally clear lens of the eye begins to get cloudy, making vision appear blurry or "fogged up." Cataracts develop slowly, but can interfere with vision over time. Thankfully, surgery for the condition is safe and effective.

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Symptoms of cataracts

Symptoms include vision that's clouded or dimmed, blurry vision, seeing halos around lights, needing brighter light for reading, and poor night vision.

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Glaucoma

The leading cause of blindness for people over 60, glaucoma is the blanket term for a group of diseases that cause a buildup of pressure inside the eye. When pressure within the eye becomes abnormally high, the optic nerve can become damaged, leading to irreparable vision loss.

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Symptoms of glaucoma

Glaucoma symptoms include patchy blind spots in both eyes, tunnel vision, eye pain and redness. In some cases, symptoms can include severe headache and nausea.

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Diabetic retinopathy

This common complication of diabetes is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the tissue at the back of the eye. It can cause blindness.

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Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy may not have symptoms, but eventually sufferers may notice floaters, blurred vision, empty spots in your vision and eventually vision loss. To help prevent this and other diabetes symptoms, try incorporating these diet changes into your life.

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Amblyopia

You've probably heard the most common term for amblyopia: lazy eye. An estimated 2 to 3 percent of the population suffers from the condition, which occurs when one eye doesn't develop properly, leading the brain to favor the other eye. The weaker eye tends to move around while the other stays in place. Children are usually born with the condition, and if not treated in childhood, it can lead to lifelong vision problems.

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Symptoms of amblyopia

The primary symptom of amblyopia is an eye that appears to wander, moving independently from the other eye.

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Strabismus

Strabismus is similar to amblyopia, but it's commonly referred to as being cross-eyed or wall-eyed instead of having a lazy eye. With strabismus, the eye turns when looking at something, so the eyes look in different directions and can't focus on a single point at the same time.

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Symptoms of strabismus

With strabismus, one or both eyes can turn inwards (called esotropia) or outwards (called exotropia).

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Keratoconus

The eye's clear outer lens is called the cornea, and it usually has a domed shape. With keratoconus, however, the collagen that holds the cornea in place weakens, and the cornea bulges outward into a cone-like shape. The condition is usually hereditary, and usually manifests in the teenage years. Eyeglasses and corneal transplants can help treat keratoconus.

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Symptoms of keratoconus

Symptoms include sudden vision changes in one eye, seeing double or triple in one eye, and seeing halos around lights.

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Uveitis

The uvea is the middle layer of the eye's surface, and it contains the majority of the eye's blood vessels (as well as the iris, which gives eyes their color). Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea, and it can quickly go away or last for a long time and cause damage to the eye. Those with immune system conditions are more susceptible to uveitis.

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Symptoms of Uveitis

Symptoms include pain and redness in one or both eyes, light sensitivity and blurred vision.

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Presbyopia

If you've begun needing to use reading glasses, then you may have presbyopia, the name of the condition when you lose the ability to see close objects.

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Symptoms of presbyopia

Presbyopia is defined by its main symptom: the inability to clearly see close objects, or to read print without moving the text further away from you.

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Detached retina

A detached retina is what occurs when the retina, the membrane that lines the back of the eyeball and sends vision signals to the brain, becomes detached from the back of the eye. It's a serious issue that can easily lead to vision loss, and must be immediately repaired with surgery.

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Symptoms of detached retina

The retina can become detached after an injury to the eye or face, and can also occur in very nearsighted people. As the retina begins to pull away, symptoms may include light flashes, spots, floaters and blurry vision. Once the retina is detached, it will appear as if a curtain is descending across part of your vision.

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How to protect your eyesight

Vision loss is a scary thing, but thankfully there are some steps you can take to protect your eyes as you age. Take steps to prevent diabetes and prevent high blood pressure (which can cause diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration), get regular exercise, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV light, eat a healthy diet full of antioxidants (and take an eye vitamin supplement), don't smoke and make sure you get a comprehensive eye exam annually. Focusing on eye health is just one tip for healthy aging.

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