Regular eye exams are an invaluable tool in maintaining your eyes' health by detecting and preventing disease. Some diseases, such as glaucoma, often develop gradually without causing pain or vision loss - so you may not notice anything wrong until significant and irreversible damage has been done. Early detection of any problems can allow for a choice of treatment options and a reduced risk of further harm.
One of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eye rises high enough to damage the optic nerve. It cannot be prevented, and vision lost to it cannot be restored. The high eye pressure associated with glaucoma is caused by blockages in the eye's fluid drains. No one knows yet why the blockages form. People at the greatest risk include those who are over the age of 40, diabetic, near-sighted, African-American, or who have a family history of glaucoma.
Glaucoma often develops over many years without causing pain - so you may not experience vision loss until the disease has progressed. Symptoms are occasionally present and should be taken as warning signs that glaucoma may be developing; these include blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, halo effects around lights and painful or reddened eyes.
Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be controlled. Treatments to lower pressure in the eye include non-surgical methods such as prescription eye drops and medications, laser therapy, and surgery.
Macular degeneration is the number-one cause of blindness in the United States. It occurs when the macula -- a part of the retina in the back of the eye that ensures that our vision is clear and sharp -- degrades or "degenerates," causing a progressive loss of vision.
Yes. They include:
- A gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
- A gradual loss of color vision
- Distorted vision
- A dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision
The "dry" form of macular degeneration has no treatment, but the "wet" form may be helped by laser procedures if it is detected early. Certain vitamins and minerals may also aid in slowing or preventing vision loss.
A cataract is a cloudy area in the normally clear lens in the front of the eye. Cataracts are caused by a chemical change of unknown origin in the eye, and cause blurred or distorted vision. People at risk for developing cataracts are over 55 years old, have had eye injuries or disease, have a family history of cataracts, smoke cigarettes or use certain medications.
They cannot be prevented from forming, but early detection through regular eye exams can help maintain the clearest vision possible.
There is no pain associated with the condition, but there are several symptoms that indicate failing vision due to cataracts. These include:
- Blurred/hazy vision
- Spots in front of the eye(s)
- Sensitivity to glare
- A feeling of "film" over the eye(s)
- A temporary improvement in near vision
Vision loss from cataracts can often be corrected with prescription glasses and contact lenses. For people who are significantly affected by cataracts, replacement surgery may be the preferred method of treatment. During cataract replacement (the most common surgical procedure in the country), the lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one called an intraocular lens or IOL.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that weakens the blood vessels that supply nourishment to the retina (the light-sensitive lining in the back of the eye where vision is focused). When these weak vessels leak, swell or develop thin branches, vision loss occurs. In its advanced stages, the disease can cause blurred or cloudy vision, floaters and blind spots - and, eventually, blindness. This damage is irreversible.
Yes. People with diabetes are most susceptible to developing it, but your risk is reduced if you follow your prescribed diet and medications, exercise regularly, control your blood pressure, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Regular eye exams are an integral part of making sure your eyes are healthy.
Although damage caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be corrected, patients diagnosed with the condition can be treated to slow its progression and prevent further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser and surgical procedures.
"Dry eye" is the term for when your eyes are insufficiently moisturized, either because they do not produce enough tears or because the tears have an improper chemical composition. It often occurs during the natural aging process, but it can also form as a result of eyelid or blinking problems, certain medications (antihistamines, oral contraceptives, antidepressants), climate (low humidity, wind, dust), injury, and various health problems (arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome).
- Irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes
- A burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes
- Blurred vision
In addition to being uncomfortable, dry eye can damage eye tissue, scar the cornea and impair vision. Dry eye is not preventable, but it can be controlled before harm is done to your eyes.
Treatment for dry eye can take many forms. Non-surgical methods include blinking exercises, increasing humidity at home or work, and use of artificial tears or moisturizing ointment. If these methods fail, small plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or the drainage tubes in the eyes may be surgically closed.