What Are Common Eye Problems That Can Lead to Vision Loss If Not Treated? (podcast)

Scripps eye care expert explains glaucoma, cataracts and more

Dr. Quan is featured in San Diego Health podcast discussion on healthy eyes, cataracts and vision loss, eye irritation.

Dr. Ann Quan, Ophthalmology, Scripps Clinic

Scripps eye care expert explains glaucoma, cataracts and more

The eyes are the window to the soul, so it’s important that you take care of them. Illness, injury, aging, and excessive screen-time can all impact eye health, so get them checked regularly or when anything feels out of place.


In this episode of San Diego Health, host Susan Taylor and guest Ann Quan, MD, an ophthalmologist at Scripps Clinic, discuss the anatomy of the eye, plus diagnosing and treating common eye problems that can lead to vision loss, including glaucoma and cataracts.

Dr. Quan also touches on less serious, but still irritating conditions like dry eye and itchy eyes, and gives a few tips to keep your eyes and vision in optimal health.

Listen to the episode on common eye problems and treatments

Listen to the episode on common eye problems and treatments

Podcast highlights

What are the most common eye problems? (0:44)

Over time, the natural lens can opacify and turn yellow. This is known as a cataract. A cataract is one of the most common causes of vision loss.

Many people have diabetes and sometimes the blood sugar can get into the back part of the eye into the blood vessels, and you can get what’s called diabetic retinopathy.

In addition, we all have a drainage system that helps to lower the pressure in the eye. As you get a little bit older, the drainage system may not work as well, and the fluid builds up and you can get a condition called glaucoma, which affects the optic nerve in the back of the eye.

The three most common causes of vision loss include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.

What causes dry eyes, red eyes, itchy eyes? (1:47)

One of the most common causes of these conditions is eyelid inflammation, known as a blepharitis. As you get a little bit older and spend time in the sunlight, the eyelids can get inflamed. The oil glands along the eyelid margins can get clogged. When the eyelid oil glands get clogged, not enough oils are going to the surface of the eye and your tears evaporate much quicker. This causes extremely dry eyes, itchy eyes, and eye redness.

What impact does too much screen time have on eye health? (2:20)

As you spend time watching TV or on the computer, on your phone, your eyes are kept wide open, not really blinking very much. That’s going to cause a little bit of dry eye. If you’ve been on a screen all day, your eyes are going to feel extremely dry.

In addition to taking breaks what else can you do for dry eyes? (2:45)

One thing you can do is use preservative-free, over-the-counter artificial tears as a supplement, maybe three to four times daily.

Who is most at risk for dry eyes, itchy eyes, red eyes? (3:16)

Elderly patients are at most risk for these types of conditions because as you get a little bit older in addition to your eye oil glands getting clogged, you also don’t produce as many tears.

What can you do to prevent dry, itchy, red eyes? (3:31)

Twice a day in the morning and at nighttime, take a hot warm face towel when you’re washing your face and rub it along your eyelid margins for a couple of minutes. This will naturally give your eyelids a facial, and open up those oil glands, and allow the oils to drain to the surface of your eye to lubricate your eyes.

What is glaucoma? Who is most at risk? (3:55)

Glaucoma is a multifactorial condition in which there’s damage to your optic nerve that leads to peripheral visual field loss.

Patients who are most at risk for developing glaucoma include older adults, people with a family history of glaucoma and also elevated intraocular pressure.

What are symptoms of glaucoma? (4:18)

The symptoms of glaucoma, which is damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye, first starts with peripheral visual field loss. Early on, you may not notice your peripheral visual field loss. So it’s important to come to the eye clinic and get a test called a Humphrey visual field test, which allows us to determine how much peripheral visual field loss has been lost. If left untreated with elevated intraocular pressure, you may slowly lose all of your central visual acuity.

What are treatments for glaucoma? (4:53)

Treatments for glaucoma involve topical eye drops, laser therapy, oral medication, and glaucoma incisional surgery. The treatment of every single patient is very unique to the patient, and it’s multifactorial. It can be a combination of all of the above.

What is the recovery time for surgery for glaucoma? (5:13)

The recovery time for glaucoma surgery is extremely dependent on the type of surgery that you get.

If I perform a minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, such as a glaucoma stent, or a surgery in the angle, then the recovery time is really only about a week or so.

But if you have severe glaucoma and I’m doing incisional glaucoma surgery that involves opening the eye, or creating a drainage system, or a tube, then that takes about a couple weeks to a couple months.

What are cataracts? Who is most at risk? (5:48)

When we are born, we have a natural lens that is extremely clear. As you get older, what can happen is, the lens can opacify and turn yellow, and this is considered a cataract. Cataracts are going to cause you to have blurry, hazy vision. Things may be more hazy and yellow. At nighttime when your eyes are dilated and you’re driving, you’re going to get glare from the oncoming lights and not be able to see as well.

Cataract surgery involves taking out the cataract itself and then putting in a clear lens that allows you to see. Cataract surgeries are performed typically one eye at a time. It takes about 10 to 20 minutes. The recovery is about one week. We typically do one eye maybe one or two weeks apart and the patients are extremely happy.

Nowadays there’s a standard lens that allows you to see extremely well at distance. With new technology there is what’s called premium multifocal lenses that allow you to be spectacle independent, seeing very up close, intermediate and even far away. These patients are extremely happy.

Most patients who get the multifocal premium lenses don’t need any glasses after cataract surgery.

How often should you get your eyes checked? Starting at what age? (7:16)

Patients with no ocular symptoms, I totally recommend getting a comprehensive eye exam by either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist at the age of 40 years old. After the comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will tell you how often you need to follow up.

Patients with a family history of eye conditions may need to be followed up yearly after that. But patients with no ocular symptoms maybe need to follow every two to three years. But definitely when you reach the age of 65 years old, and you haven’t had an eye exam yet, you may want to go get checked for cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

What is recommended to help maintain healthy eyes? (7:57)

If you’re having any red, itchy eyes, a foreign body sensation in your eye and are on the computer all day, it’s okay to take a break. Put in some preservative-free artificial tears, and come get your eyes checked with us. Definitely do this by the age of 40 years old, to help prevent some serious conditions from happening in the eye.

Lightly edited for clarity.

Watch the video on healthy eyes

Watch the San Diego Health video with host Susan Taylor and Dr. Quan discussing how to keep your eyes healthy.

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