An overview of human eye diseases

There is a variety of diseases in the eye, which often have many different causes. Inflammations, injuries and changes in age can change and damage the eye. In the following, you will find the most common eye diseases in order:

  • Eye diseases, which often occur at an advanced age
  • Inflammations and infections in and around the eye
  • Eye diseases as a consequence of other underlying diseases
  • Tumours and anomalies in and around the eye
  • Eye diseases due to nerve damage
  • Visual impairment
  • Malposition of the eyes

Glaucoma is not so much a specific disease, but rather a generic term for a series of disorders associated with typical damage to the optic nerve papilla and visual field.

This can result in damage to the optic nerve head and the retina with the consequence of visual field failures and, in extreme cases, blindness of the eye. The therapy depends on the cause and underlying disease. However, if symptoms occur in the eye, an ophthalmologist should be consulted for further clarification.

Cataract generally refers to any form of clouding of the lens. With an advanced cataract, a grey veil can be seen behind the pupil. The clouding makes the lens opaque to light and causes a slow decrease in vision, up to complete blindness, as well as deterioration in visual acuity (visual acuity).

The main symptom of a cataract is the increasingly weakened vision. The causes are very diverse. If the clouding of the lens caused by the cataract worsens significantly and severely restricts normal vision, surgery is the only treatment option.

You can find more information under our topic: CataractsA distinction is made between dry age-related macular degeneration (85%) and a wet form (15%). Causes of AMD are not yet exactly clarified. Mostly the affected persons notice grey shadows in the central field of vision, exactly where they look.

The visual acuity is very impaired, often so severely that it is hardly possible to read. For the dry form of age-related macular degeneration there is no established therapy. Better treatment options are known for the wet form, such as laser surgery and surgical rotation.

To alleviate the discomfort that manifests itself in increasing deterioration of visual performance, magnifying visual aids (magnifying glasses, magnifying goggles, screen readers) are used. The barleycorn is a purulent inflammation of the eyelid glands. It can occur on the inner side of the eyelid as inflammation of sebaceous glands (the so-called meibomian glands) or on the outer side as inflammation of sweat glands (minor glands) or sebaceous glands (Zeis glands).

The main symptom is a painful nodule on the edge of the eyelid. The treatment is carried out with antibiotic ointment and heat treatment by red light irradiation. The hailstone is an inflammation of sebaceous glands on the inside of the eyelid (so-called Meibom glands) due to secretion congestion.

In contrast to barley grain, it is not painful. The impairments are mostly of a purely cosmetic nature: the hailstone is visible as a nodular bulge of the eyelid, which can reach a considerable size. The treatment is surgical by piercing and clearing out the secretion masses.

Inflammation of the conjunctiva is one of the most common diseases of the eye. The eye itches, is red and releases secretions. It can be triggered by bacteria, viruses, an allergy or external stimuli such as dry air.

Depending on the cause, it may or may not be contagious. The main symptoms are often a red eye, swelling, secretion and sometimes pain. Since conjunctivitis can be triggered by several causes, there are also different treatment approaches.

One should be careful with self-treatment without consulting a doctor. Trachoma is a chronic conjunctivitis caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which often leads to blindness. It usually manifests itself within 5-7 days with a weeping conjunctivitis with a foreign body sensation.

Systemic or local intracellular antibiotics are used to treat trachoma. A doctor should be consulted for further clarification. Eye herpes refers to an infection of the eye with herpes viruses.

Different structures of the eye can be affected (nerves, cornea, etc.). In addition to the eye herpes, the herpes simplex viruses often cause herpes simplex keratitis, i.e. an inflammation of the cornea caused by herpes. The main symptoms are often reddening of the eyes, a foreign body sensation and severe burning and itching.

The treatment is carried out with eye ointments and/or eye drops. However, a doctor should be consulted before treatment. Uveitis is an inflammation of the middle skin of the eye (uvea).

You can tell whether you have uveitis by the fact that your eye is severely reddened, there is stabbing pain, the eye is watery, your vision is blurred, the pupil is constricted and bright light aggravates the symptoms. Possible triggers for the inflammation of the uvea are bacteria, viruses or fungi. To prevent permanent damage, the inflammation should be quickly and effectively relieved by an ophthalmologist.

The anti-inflammatory drug cortisone is usually used for this purpose. The symptoms of eyelid inflammation can vary considerably depending on the area affected. The eyes may itch and water, but in severe cases there may also be massive pain and increasing loss of vision.

The term “barleycorn” is used to describe various causes of eyelid inflammation (see above). Another cause of eyelid inflammation is lacrimal sac inflammation. The therapy depends on the cause of the eyelid inflammation and can therefore vary considerably from case to case.

Inflammation of the lacrimal gland usually affects the entire eye, since the tear fluid it produces supplies important structures distributed over the entire eye. Inflammation of the lacrimal gland can have various causes. Most often, the acute form of the inflammation is caused by bacterial pathogens.

However, certain viruses can also lead to an inflammation of the lacrimal gland. Inflammation of the lacrimal gland usually occurs on one side. It manifests itself in the patient having a reddened and swollen eye that reacts very sensitively to pressure.

The treatment of inflammation of the lacrimal gland always depends on the cause of the disease. Warm, preferably sterile compresses on the eye can help the inflammation to subside more quickly. The inflammation of the optic nerve is called neuritis nervi optici.

Many underlying diseases can lead to an inflammation of the optic nerve. The most common cause (about 20-30% of cases) is the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). First, the inflammation of the optic nerve leads to a loss of visual acuity.

With slow progression, this is usually not immediately noticed by the patient. However, in most cases, central visual field deficits occur suddenly, i.e. within a few hours (sometimes even days). In most cases an inflammation of the optic nerve shows spontaneous healing even without therapy and the visual acuity improves again by itself.

However, the underlying disease should still be identified in order to treat it. Iritis is an inflammation of the iris. It is often associated with inflammation of other parts of the middle eye skin (uvea), which is then referred to as uveitis (see above).

There are two different ways of development of iritis. On the one hand there are iritis, which have a non-inflammatory cause, on the other hand inflammatory diseases can occur within the scope of the immune response after infections. Often the eyes are reddened, very sensitive to light and can hurt.

In addition, there is a reduction in vision. The causal treatment of iritis can have different approaches, as there are many different causes. An inflammation of the cornea is also called keratitis.

The cornea is often cloudy. In addition, the eyes water and are very painful. Mostly they are additionally reddened.

The eye can become more sensitive to light. There are many different causes for keratitis. A distinction is made between infectious and non-infectious causes.

An ophthalmologist should be consulted immediately if there is any suspicion, as otherwise vision may be permanently reduced. The therapy depends on the cause and can be carried out with various eye drops. The causative agent of toxoplasmosis is the parasite Toxoplasma Gondii.

30-80% of the population is infected with this bacterium in the course of life. In healthy people the disease often progresses without clinical symptoms. The disease can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.

In the eye, the infection manifests itself through inflammation of the posterior segments of the eye. In medical terminology, this is called posterior uveitis. It can lead to a severe loss of vision.

Typical eye diseases in diabetes are diabetic retinopathy and macular edema. These diseases are a consequence of the vascular changes of the small vessels in the context of diabetes. One speaks of a microangiopathy.

This causes long-term damage to the retina or macula, the area of sharpest vision. This leads to a constant loss of vision during the course of the disease. About 25% of patients suffering from diabetes are affected.

Diabetic retinopathy is a change in the retina that occurs over the years in diabetics. The vessels of the retina calcify, new vessels can form, which grow into structures of the eye and thus severely endanger vision. Depending on the stage of the disease, deposits, new vessels or even a retinal detachment and bleeding may occur.

The affected persons have blurred and blurred vision. Therapy is difficult and can be carried out by laser or surgery, depending on the cause. There is no drug therapy.

Endocrine orbitopathy is a disease that affects the eyes and their orbits. The majority of patients suffering from endocrine orbitopathy develop this symptom as part of a thyroid dysfunction. The affected patient’s eyes emerge from their orbit and the upper eyelids appear raised, making the eyes appear unnaturally large and wide open.

The fact that it is still not possible for physicians to treat endocrine orbitopathy causally is due in no small part to the fact that the exact causes of the disease have not yet been fully researched. Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system is directed mainly against salivary and lacrimal glands. Sjögren’s syndrome causes symptoms such as dry eyes, dry mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat and joint problems.

The treatment is still difficult today due to the unexplained causation. Xanthelasma is a yellowish plaque caused by lipid deposits in the upper and lower eyelid. They are harmless, in no case contagious and are not hereditary, although they can occur in families.

In older people this often happens without a cause, in younger people basic diseases must be excluded. Xanthelasma can be recognized as yellowish cushions. If desired, the affected skin areas can be cut out.

In a rheumatic disease, all structures of the eye can in principle be affected by inflammatory processes. One speaks of uveitis. Affected patients typically complain of burning eyes, a foreign body sensation, a reddened eye, stabbing pain and increased sensitivity to glare.

A complication of a rheumatic disease can be macular edema (swelling of the macula, the site of sharpest vision) or cataract (cataract, clouding of the eye lens). Rheumatoid diseases of the eye are treated in acute cases with cortisone-containing eye drops and, if necessary, additionally with mydriatic drugs. This is a pupil-dilating medication which is intended to prevent the iris and iris from sticking together.

In the case of frequent inflammations, there is a risk that the cortisone will cause clouding of the eye lens. In this case, a so-called immunomodulating therapy with methotrexate or cyclosporine A should therefore be started, which suppresses the immune reaction. A special form of rheumatoid disease is the Sjögren’s syndrome.

This is an autoimmune disease that belongs to the group of collagenoses. In this disease there is an alteration of the tear and salivary glands, resulting in dry eyes and a dry mouth. Women after the menopause are particularly affected.

The disease is treated with artificial tear and saliva. Eye drops containing cortisone or cyclosporine A can also be used. Uveal melanoma is the most common malignant tumour inside the eye in adults.

It is caused by a degeneration of the pigment-forming cells that are important for the colour of the eye. Therefore these tumours are often dark in colour. The choroidal melanoma often metastasizes.

In most cases, choroidal melanoma does not initially cause any symptoms, which is why it remains undetected for a long time. The treatment of choroidal melanoma depends on its size and can be carried out by radiation, laser or surgery. Eyelid tumours are tumours of the eyelids.

They can be either benign or malignant. The causes of eyelid tumours include various triggers. High solar radiation (UV radiation) can promote the development of eyelid tumours.

In addition, a high exposure to X-rays has a negative effect. An eyelid tumour does not always have to be disturbing. Depending on the location, the tumours can also leave the patient completely unaffected.

The treatment options for eyelid tumours depend on the type of tumour, its stage of progress, where it is located and consequently the functional restrictions it entails. A retinoblastoma is a tumour of the retina. This tumour is genetic, i.e. hereditary.

It usually occurs in childhood and is malignant. A retinoblastoma is a congenital tumour or it develops in early childhood. The affected children are actually free of symptoms, i.e. they do not express any pain.

Occasionally it can happen that children with a retinoblastoma squint. As already explained above, the retinoblastoma tumour is already well advanced and therefore relatively large at the time of diagnosis. In these cases the eye must be removed.

Smaller tumours can be treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. There are malignant as well as benign tumours on the lacrimal gland – as on all other organs. They differ in their growth pattern and their ability to spread.

The most common tumour of the lacrimal gland is the benign adenoma. Malignant tumours of the lacrimal gland are rare. The therapy depends on the tumour in question.

A birthmark, or sometimes also a pigment or mole, is colloquially referred to as a sharply defined, benign malformation of the skin or mucous membrane. First of all, this is not a disease, but merely a benign anomaly. In rare cases, however, it can degenerate into a melanoma.

In most cases it is only a cosmetic problem. It can be removed by surgery or laser coagulation. A cyst describes a fluid-filled cavity that can occur in almost any part of the body.

A cyst in the eye therefore describes a hollow space in or around the eye, which can be filled with sebum, pus, blood or tissue, for example. Cysts in the eye can be congenital or acquired. Acquired means that the cysts are caused by infections, inflammations or injuries in the eye.

Typical locations for cysts in the eye are in the area of the conjunctiva, the iris (iris) and the lacrimal gland. Since cysts are benign, they must only be removed when they cause discomfort such as pain or deterioration of vision. In addition, there are more frequent cysts in the area of the eye, which are caused by an accumulation of sebum that has become encapsulated or by encapsulated sweat glands.

They are called sebum or sweat retention cysts. Horner’s syndrome manifests itself through three defined signs of the disease: pupil constriction, drooping of the upper eyelid and sinking back into the eye socket. Horner’s syndrome is not an independent disease, but only a symptom (sign) of a disease.

Often certain nerves are damaged. There is no treatment for the symptom Horner syndrome. However, by treating the causes, the signs of Horner’s triad can decrease.

Optic atrophy is the loss of nerve cells in the optic nerve. Either the nerve cells decrease in size or in number. Both are possible.

Atrophy can have various causes. The symptoms range from small, unnoticed central nerve losses to large-area losses of the visual field, which can be restrictive in everyday life. The ophthalmologist’s examination of the back of the eye is the most important factor in making a diagnosis.

The treatment of optic atrophy is more difficult, since the cause must be treated in each case. In the case of farsightedness (hyperopia) there is an imbalance between refractive power and the length of the eyeball. Long-sighted people see well at a distance, but objects appear blurred at close range.

The eyeball is too short in relation to the refractive power or the refractive power is too weak in relation to the eyeball. The cause can be axial hyperopia or refractive hyperopia. There are now several therapeutic options for the correction of farsightedness.

The simplest solution is glasses with convex lenses (also plus lenses or converging lenses), which support the refractive power of the eye. The genetically determined red-green weakness is the most common colour vision disorder and is often colloquially mistakenly called colour blindness. It is always congenital.

Affected people perceive certain red and green tones only as shades of grey, which means that they have difficulty or no ability to distinguish these two colours from each other. To date, there is no known therapy for red-green vision impairment and since the disease is inherited, there is no possibility of prophylaxis. Strabismus is the deviation of an eye from the direction in which it should naturally look.

There are several possible causes. In most cases, however, no trigger can be identified. The complaints include fatigue, headaches and double vision.

It can be treated by an operation. It is recommended to have the operation after 6 months at the latest. Nearsightedness (myopia) refers to a type of ametropia in which the relationship between refractive power and the length of the eyeball is not correct.

Strictly speaking, the eyeball is too long (axial myopia) or the refractive power too strong (refractive myopia). The nearsighted person can see objects close by well, but objects further away are only perceived blurred or blurred. Nearsightedness can usually be corrected with the help of glasses.

Night blindness is a disturbed ability of the eyes to adapt to darkness. For those affected, only outlines are visible. Due to a vitamin A deficiency, it can also be acquired.

At the ophthalmologist, night blindness is measured and recognised by means of equipment. There is no therapy. If you have blurred vision both at a distance and close up, the cause may be a so-called astigmatism.

The eye is no longer able to focus the incident light on an exact point on the retina and thus bring it into focus, but the affected persons see points as blurred lines. A defective vision of the eye is called astigmatism. A distinction is made between regular and irregular astigmatism.

The symptoms of astigmatism depend on the degree of curvature of the cornea. In addition to the correction of astigmatism with glasses or contact lenses, the surgical procedure is a possible therapy. and astigmatismWith total colour blindness, no colours whatsoever can be perceived, only contrasts (i.e. light or dark).

A distinction is made between congenital and acquired colour blindness. The main symptoms are: lack of ability to perceive colours; reduced visual acuity; rapid, twitching eye movements; increased sensitivity to glare. At present there is no cure for colour blindness.