Common Eye Conditions


A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye leading to a decrease in vision. It can affect one or both eyes. Often it develops slowly. Symptoms may include faded colours, blurry vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night. This may result in trouble driving, reading, or recognizing faces. Poor vision may also result in an increased risk of falling and depression. Cataracts are the cause of half of blindness and 33% of visual impairment worldwide.

Cataracts are most commonly due to aging but may also occur due to trauma or radiation exposure, be present from birth, or occur following eye surgery for other problems.

Risk factors include:

  • diabetes,
  • smoking tobacco,
  • prolonged exposure to sunlight, and
  • alcohol.

Prevention includes wearing sunglasses and not smoking. Early on the symptoms may be improved with eyeglasses. If this does not help, surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens is the only effective treatment. Surgery is only needed if the cataracts are causing problems. Surgery generally results in an improved quality of life.


Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. There is no pain and changes are subtle. Side vision may begin to decrease followed by central vision resulting in blindness if not treated. Glaucoma can present gradually or happen suddenly. The sudden presentation may involve severe eye pain, blurred vision, mid-dilated pupil, redness of the eye, and nausea. Vision loss from glaucoma, once it has occurred, is permanent.

Risk factors for glaucoma include increased pressure in the eye, a family history of the condition, migraines, high blood pressure, and obesity. Diagnosis is by a dilated eye examination.

If treated early it is possible to slow or stop the progression of disease with medication, laser treatment, or surgery. The goal of these treatments is to decrease eye pressure. Treatment of closed-angle glaucoma is a medical emergency.

Macular Degeneration

MD is a leading cause of poor vision and blindness in Australia, that affects older people. It’s a degenerative disease of the retina that causes progressive, painless loss of central vision, affecting the ability to see fine detail, drive, read, and recognise faces.

Paul Carruthers explains, “Your eye works very like a camera. The lens at the front of your eye focuses the image onto the retina which lines the back of the eye. The retina acts like the film in the camera. The image is sent from the retina through the optic nerve and interpreted by our brain. MD affects mostly the central vision of the retina.”

MD can start without you noticing anything at all. It’s not until the problem has been there for a while that your sight becomes a problem. If you get onto it early, it can be managed, but if left, little can be done. It can’t be cured.

Paul and his optometrists recommend that you have an eye examination at least every two years to make sure you don’t have MD, and to help keep it in check if you do.

MD Tips

  • Get your eyes tested at least every two years but every year is better when you get older
  • Eat healthy. Lots of coloured veggies, fish and fruit
  • Avoid very fatty foods
  • Protect your eyes from bright sunlight
  • Get an “Amsler Grid” from your optometrist to check your vision at home.