Conditions and Diseases

Common Eye Problems

Vision problems can occur at any stage in life, and they often get worse as people get older. The three major contributors to vision loss worldwide are cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Through partnerships, extensive clinical trials and an innovative product pipeline, Alcon has consistently led the advancement of eye care by developing, manufacturing and selling effective treatments for many specific eye diseases.

Eye Diseases


A cataract – clouding of the eye’s natural lens as a result of aging or injury – is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cataracts are responsible for 51 percent of blindness, representing about 20 million people around the world. The only known treatment is surgical removal of the clouded lens.

Alcon continues to play a prominent role in cataract surgery advancements.

  • Alcon was a driving force behind the adoption of phacoemulsification, a procedure in which a blade-free, ultrasonic device is used to remove a cataractous lens.
  • Alcon scientists led in the development of foldable intraocular lenses (IOLs) that, along with phacoemulsification, have enabled surgeons to reduce the size of incisions, speed up recovery times, and improve patient outcomes.
  • Alcon offers a family of advanced technology IOLs that not only correct cataracts, but other common eye conditions, such as presbyopia and astigmatism.
  • Alcon spearheaded the establishment of an advanced laser technology platform to provide improved accuracy, reliability and customization of incisions during cataract surgery.

Learn more about cataracts at


Glaucoma, another leading cause of preventable blindness according to WHO, is a progressive eye disease that damages the optic nerve, resulting in gradual, irreversible loss of vision and eventually blindness if left untreated. Caused by an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eyes, glaucoma is often asymptomatic and therefore undetected until an advanced stage.

Alcon is a world leader in providing treatment solutions for patients living with glaucoma, which is an eye disease that can be managed if detected early. Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops and oral medications, and at later stages, through surgical intervention.

Nearly 80 million people are expected to develop glaucoma by 2020.1

Refractive Errors

Refractive errors are the most common vision problems – and the most treatable. A refractive error occurs when the eye is not clearly focused on an object. Blurred vision is the most common symptom of refractive errors, but people also experience headaches, eye strain and even double vision.

Refractive errors include myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (oddly shaped cornea), and are typically treated with contact lenses, corrective glasses or refractive surgery. Alcon is a leader in corrective eye surgery procedures, such as LASIK vision correction, and is also one of the largest manufacturers of contact lenses and lens care products globally.

More than 11 million Americans have a treatable refractive error.2

Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60, and the United Nations estimates it impacts 25-30 million people worldwide. AMD occurs when the center of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates.

In addition to its internal team of experts, Alcon collaborates with external research partners to further accelerate product innovations and treatments for eye conditions such as AMD. While there is no cure for AMD, treatment options are available.

Early detection of AMD and treatment can delay or reduce the severity of the disease.3

Vitreoretinal Disorders

Vitreoretinal disorders, such as retinal detachment, retinal diseases, vitreomacular adhesion (VMA) and diabetic retinopathy, can cause loss of vision – and sometimes even blindness. Alcon has a long heritage of working closely with vitreoretinal surgeons to understand their needs and provide technology and products that deliver the best results for patients.

Aging populations mean that chronic causes of visual impairment, such as diabetic retinopathy, are projected to rise exponentially.4

External Eye Conditions

Alcon offers both prescription and over-the-counter solutions to help reduce the pain and discomfort resulting from problems on the eye’s surface, including allergies, eye inflammation, eye irritations and dry eye. The biological causes of these conditions are unclear, and pollution and other environmental factors can make them worse.

Dry eye occurs when the tear glands stop making enough tears or produce poor quality tears or when tears evaporate too quickly.5


  1. WHO Has Estimated that 4.5 Million People Are Blind Due to Glaucoma. (Updated June 23, 2010) [Accessed January 5, 2012]
  2. National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health. Your Eyes Are the Windows to Your Health. [Accessed March 21, 2013]
  3. WebMD. Age-Related Macular Degeneration Overview. (Updated March 6, 2011) [Accessed January 5, 2012]
  4. World Health Organization. Visual Impairment and Blindness Fact Sheet N°282. (Updated May 2009) [Accessed January 5, 2012]
  5., Eye Health Center. Dry Eye. (Updated November 3, 2011) [January 31, 2012]
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How The Eye Works

Facts About the Eye

“Red eye” in photographs occurs when light from a camera’s flash reflects off of the retina’s blood vessels. 

The National Eye Institute. Eye-Related Facts