A look at some common eye conditions

Health correspondent ( 14 July 2015 )

Developing AMD, cataracts and glaucoma becomes more common with advancing years. Have check-ups and know the warning signs.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

The most common cause of poor sight in people aged 60 plus. It is caused by degeneration of the macula, the part of the eye that distinguishes fine detail. There are two types – ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. Sufferers usually have enough side (peripheral) vision to get around, but driving, reading and watching television may become difficult or impossible.

  • Initially blurring, shadowy areas in your central vision or distorted vision
  • Later on a gradually enlarging central blind spot
  • Eventually the condition stabilises
  • Age AMD becomes more common as we get older
  • Gender Women are more at risk than men.
  • Genes There are several genes which may be involved.
  • Smoking.
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Poor nutrition. Low levels of antioxidant nutrients may be a factor

Your GP or optometrist should be able to refer you to a local low vision service.

You are likely to need help to learn to use your peripheral vision so you can make the most of your remaining sight. Using magnifiers can help. ‘Wet’ macular degeneration can sometimes be treated by laser.

A new class of monoclonal antibody drugs, known as anti-VEGF, are now available to treat wet AMD.

NICE, the government health watchdog, has recently eased restrictions of the use of Lucentis, the only drug licensed to treat wet AMD, which is given as a series of injections. Researchers are working on developing other new treatments for AMD, including one using stem cells to treat the 90 per cent of patients who have the dry type; trials are planned to start within two years.


Clouding of the part of the eye called the lens. It happens when the protein fibres that make up the lens undergo chemical changes, a process is similar to that which takes place in the white of an egg as it is cooked.

  • Blurred or misty vision
  • Your spectacles may appear dirty or scratched even when they are clean
  • Being dazzled by the sun or car headlights
  • Colours may appear washed out or faded
  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • A diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • High blood pressure

A simple operation to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a plastic one (intraocular lens implant) can be performed. In the past surgeons often used to wait until vision had deteriorated quite severely before operating. However today it is usually done as soon as poor eyesight interferes with daily life. The operation is carried out under local anaesthetic.


What is it? Damage to the optic nerve often but not always caused by raised pressure inside the eyeball. There are several types but the most common is chronic glaucoma, which develops slowly.

  • Initially loss of vision is usually in the shape of an arc just above and/or below the centre when looking straight ahead
  • As the condition progresses the blank area spreads outwards and inwards
  • Eventually the centre of vision is affected leading to ‘tunnel vision’
  • Age. Glaucoma affects 5 per cent of people over 65
  • Race. You are more likely to develop glaucoma if you are of Black African origin
  • Family. If you have a close relative (brother, sister, father or mother) with glaucoma you have a higher risk of developing it yourself and should have checks every two years
  • Short sightedness
  • Diabetes
  • Eye drops to reduce pressure in the eye
  • Laser treatment
  • An operation called a trabeculectomy to improve drainage of fluid from the eye
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