Understanding Common Eye Problems and Their Treatments

Naturalist Henry David Thoreau said, “The eye is the jewel of the body.” But just like jewels that can have imperfections that disrupt the normal crystal structure, our eyes can experience disorders that can cause vision impairment or general discomfort. Fortunately, physicians who are experts in eye care use a variety of treatments ¬— from glasses and contacts to medications and minimally invasive procedures to treat common eye conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), refractive errors are the most frequent eye problems in the United States. Refractive errors include myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (distorted vision at all distances) and presbyopia that occurs between age 40-50 years (loss of the ability to focus up close and the need to hold newspaper farther away to see clearly). These refractive errors can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or in some cases surgery. The National Eye Institute states that proper refractive correction could improve vision among 150 million Americans.

What are common eye conditions?

In addition to refractive errors, there are several other common eye conditions that include:

  • Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Cataracts
  • Conjunctival injuries
  • Cornea injuries
  • Diabetic eye
  • Double vision
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Eye infections
  • Eyelid injuries, lesions/cysts or spasms
  • Facial spasms
  • Flashes/floater
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular degeneration


Eye infections can be caused by many different organisms, including bacteria, viruses, amoeba and fungi. Symptoms can include pain, redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing and discharge.

“Any time there is a concern with the eyes, it should be taken very seriously,” explained Perry Ward Younger, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Penn Highlands Eye Center in St. Marys, Pa. “Many eye infections are not serious and can be treated with antibiotic drops.” If you have any of the symptoms of infection, seek treatment, and if you wear contacts, remove them as soon as possible.”

Dr. Younger continued, “An uncommon but serious source of eye infections come from inappropriately managed hot tubs. Pseudomonas can grow in hot tubs commonly if the level of chlorination is not handled properly. I have personally witnessed a patient lose an eye within one week of exposure to a few drops of contaminated hot tub water being splashed in his eye.”


An estimated 2%-3% of the population suffer from amblyopia or lazy eye which is the most common cause of vision impairment in children. Amblyopia occurs when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. While the eye appears normal, it is not working correctly because the brain is favoring the other eye. Certain conditions can lead to a lazy eye including an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes; more nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic in one eye than the other; and cataracts. Symptoms include squinting, shutting one eye and tilting the head. Unless treated in childhood, amblyopia persists into adulthood and can cause permanent one-eye vision impairment. Treatments can range from treating the vision problem causing the lazy eye, such as wearing glasses to the use of temporarily wearing an eye patch or using special drops in the stronger eye to blur the vision and make the brain force the use of the other eye.

“It is important to treat children with a lazy eye early,” said Dr. Younger. “Children who grow up without treatment have lifelong vision problems. Screenings occur by pediatricians as well as primary care providers. Teachers can likewise be vigilant looking for signs such as difficulty reading or squinting in classrooms.”


Glaucoma can damage the eyes’ optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. It can occur when the normal fluid pressure inside the eye slowly rises. There is no cure for glaucoma, but early treatment can often stop the damage and protect your vision. In the early stages, no symptoms appear and nearly half of the people do not even know they have it. Glaucoma progresses slowly with side (peripheral) vision and people still do not realize that their vision is changing. As the disease worsens, those with glaucoma notice that they cannot see objects off to the side. Doctors use different treatments for glaucoma including eye drops, laser procedures to lower eye pressure and surgery. In summary, glaucoma should be thought of as a severe disease. It has been said that even in the early stages, it is a “severe disease caught at an early stage.” Therefore, catching it early should not lighten the potential severity of the disease.


According to the CDC, an estimated 20.5 million (17.2%) Americans over age 40 have a cataract in one or both eyes, and 6.1 million (5.1%) have had their lens removed operatively. Cataract, a clouding of the eye’s lens, is the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. and the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Cataracts can occur at any age because of a variety of causes, and can be present at birth; however, they are very common as people age. In fact, more than half of all Americans over age 80 either have cataracts or have had surgery to remove the cataracts. In the early stages, cataract symptoms are mild. They may range from blurry vision and decreased night vision to double vision or seeing a halo around lights.

“While home treatments may be effective at first, such as using magnifying lenses for reading and other activities or seeking a new prescription for glasses or contacts, surgery is the only way to remove the clouded lens. The surgery is very safe and effective,” added Dr. Younger.

A recent statistic cited that we are behind schedule of approximately 250,000 cataract surgeries in the U.S. because of the temporary COVID-19 closures in the U.S. Compounded to that is the continued growth of the baby boomer population who are now coming of age for surgery consultation in our country. Because many of these patients have undergone various forms of refractive surgery, they pose unique challenges to the correction selection of replacement intraocular lens implant.

Penn Highlands Healthcare combines advanced medical technology with the personal attention of board-certified ophthalmologists. Penn Highlands’ surgeons are credentialed at multiple facilities, allowing you to select the most convenient location for your surgical procedure. To learn more, visit www.phhealthcare.org/eyecare/.