Back to Top Eye Diseases - The Ottawa Hospital


Here is a brief description of some common eye diseases. Patients seeking additional information about these and other such common eye diseases as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and amblyopia are invited to visit the Canadian Ophthalmological Society’s (C.O.S.) Website You will find current information in layman’s language in both English and French on a variety of topics.

Acute Red Eye

While many of us will develop acute red eye in our lifetime, the exact etiologic cause may be difficult to determine. Although the most likely diagnosis of the red eye is acute conjunctivitis, the underlying cause may be elusive. A thorough history and examination of the face, lids, conjunctiva, and cornea will provide a presumptive diagnosis guiding initial treatment.


Cataracts do not have to change your life! They are a normal part of aging and can be treated. People regain most or all vision, and continue to do things they love to do. A cataract is a gradual clouding of the clear lens in the eye which results in a blurry or hazy image, and a sensitivity to light.

To correct it, an ophthalmic surgeon removes the damaged lens and replaces it with a clear, artificial one. Surgery is short, and you can go home the same day and resume normal activities shortly after. Speak to your eye doctor to see what you have to look forward to! Click here for more information on Cataract Surgery Wait Times at TOH.


Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. Anyone can develop glaucoma, with most people not knowing they have it. You are at greater risk when:

  • A family member has glaucoma;
  • You are 50 years of age or older;
  • You are of Afro-Canadian heritage.

Have your eyes checked regularly by an eye doctor to see what you have to gain. Early detection and treatment can save your sight!

Graves Disease

Graves Disease is typified by an apical enlargement of the eye muscles which stimulates other fibroblasts. Fluid is drawn into the muscle and stored, eventually leading to the development of scar tissue. In addition, the swelling of the muscles pushes the eye forward causing it to protrude.

As a result patients may have trouble closing their eyes, which causes drying, irritation and increased inflammation. Increased effort to bring the eyelids together may result in a frown, or swollen muscles may compress the optic nerve leading to loss of vision if treatment is not sought early on.

Low Vision

While sophisticated technologies and specialized treatment are improving sight for hundreds of Eye Institute patients, a small segment of the population continues to experience the impact of reduced visual function. Adjusting to the gradual changes can be difficult, but low vision specialists help patients learn to cope with the degree of vision that remains. Low vision affects people of all ages. It is, however most common in the elderly.

There are a variety of disorders that can affect the eye and the visual system causing low vision. These are: birth defects, injuries, certain diseases of the body and aging. The most common cause of low vision is macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a disease of the retina or the inner layer of the eye that senses light and allows you to see.

Reduced central or reading vision is the most common type of low vision. Other types of low vision are reduced side vision (peripheral), and loss of colour vision. Your eyes also might lose the ability to adjust to light, contrast or glare. Different types of low vision may require different types of aids.

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. The macula is a small spot near the back of the eye that sends images you see to your brain. As it deteriorates with age, symptoms may include:

  • Blurry central vision;
  • Distorted or wavy lines and loss of detail;
  • Difficulty distinguishing colours.

Speak to your eye doctor about possible treatment options or low vision aids.

Optic Neuropathy

Demyelinating Optic Neuropathy (optic neuritis or retrobulbar neuritis) is an acute inflammatory process of the optic nerve, generally occurring in young adults. It manifests as an acute onset of visual loss, almost always unilateral.

The visual loss generally progresses over several days, remains stable for one to two weeks, and then gradually improves. The prognosis for recovery of vision is excellent with or without treatment.

Patients experiencing such conditions are encouraged to seek treatment, as the condition carries a high risk of subsequent development of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Recent multicentre treatment trials indicate appropriate care within the first few days after onset are crucial.

While the application of intravenous steroid solutions does not alter the immediate visual prognosis, it does seem to retard the subsequent development of MS, over the next two years in patients for whom radiologic evidence suggests a higher risk of MS.

Retinal Detachment

The retina is a light-sensitive extension of the brain that lines the inner surface of the eyeball. It detects light and converts the image of the external world into electrical impulses that are sent from the eye to the brain for interpretation along the optic nerve.

The retina can be likened to the film of a camera. If the retina is not functioning properly vision can be hampered or even lost.

A retinal detachment can be of two main types:

  • Exudative Retinal Detachments occur due to the collection of fluid between the retina and the outer coats of the eye. This fluid may have many origins including inflammation and tumors. When the retina is detached from the coats of the eye, it fails to function properly leading to blurred vision in the area of the detachment.
  • Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachments are due to holes that occur in the retina allowing fluid from the vitreous cavity to lift the retina from the outer coats of the eye. These breaks or holes in the retina can be from trauma, high myopia or near-sightedness, or some rare familial eye diseases.


Strabismus is the medical term referring conditions in which one or both eyes are not aligned properly. There are three common types of strabismus:

  • Esotropia or in-turning of the eyes. This is often referred to as crossed eyes or a squint.
  • Exotropia or out-turning eyes. This is also known as walleye or divergent eyes.
  • Hypertropia – there is vertical strabismus, meaning the eyes are out of alignment vertically.

Last updated on: February 22nd, 2021