There are many different types of vision problems. Nearsightedness and farsightedness are two common examples, and are the reason many people wear corrective lenses. Other vision problems, glaucoma and cataracts, for example, are degenerative and can cause blindness if not treated by an optometrist or another medical professional. Having one's vision checked regularly assures much more than good eyesight. As some conditions such as brain cancer affect vision, an optometrist can catch early symptoms; the patient can begin treatment for the underlying cause before the condition worsens.
Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is a refractive disorder. In this condition, the eyeball is too long, meaning the eye cannot focus on faraway objects. It is commonly accepted that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role. Nearsightedness is much easier to correct through refractive surgery than farsightedness. Most ocular surgeons agree that due to the nature of the surgery, all patients need reading glasses past the age of 40.
Farsightedness, also known as hyperopia, is the opposite of nearsightedness. The eyeball too short, the eye cannot focus on near objects. Unlike nearsightedness, it generally believed that only a person's genetics determine whether he or she develops the condition. Glasses or contact lenses are the most common treatment.
Outside of common vision problems such as near and farsightedness, there are others that occur as a person grows older. Glaucoma is a condition where damage occurs to the optic nerve. Though any number of causes are possible, it is mainly due to increased intraocular pressure. Pressure rises if an individual has uncontrolled diabetes or is abusing steroids. Glaucoma worsens as optic nerve damage leads to irreversible blindness.
Responsible for half of the reported cases of world blindness, a cataract is a cloudiness that occurs in the lens. The primary causes is overexposure to ultraviolet light. Though the majority of cataract patients develop symptoms in old age, genetic factors can cause an individual to develop the disorder during childhood. Trauma to the eye is another reason a cataract can develop. Like with glaucoma, treatments for a cataract can improve one's vision but not prevent future problems from developing.
An annual visit to the optometrist can help maintain good vision and overall health. An optometrist can diagnose vision problems in their early stages and begin a patient on a proper course of treatment. A secondary benefit is that certain vision problems are indicators of underlying conditions. For example, a common symptom of brain tumors is double vision. An optometrist discovering this symptom leads to an earlier diagnosis and possibly a higher chance of survival for the patient.