Common Eye Conditions
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s crystalline lens and can result in a blurring of vision. Some of the causes of cataracts are UV exposure, ageing, diabetes, eye trauma, and steroid use. UV protection is encouraged in all daylight weather conditions to protect the eye and your optometrist can monitor the condition to make recommendations for improving your eyesight until cataract surgery is required.
Glaucoma usually causes a painless loss of peripheral vision. Glaucoma is dubbed “the silent thief of vision” because the person is unaware of the early stages of vision loss. It is caused by an increase in eye pressure that slowly damages a person’s optic nerves leading to blindness. Glaucoma can be treated and vision loss slowed or halted if detected early. It is therefore recommended all adults have their eyes routinely examined every 18 to 24 months, and yearly if there is a family history of glaucoma.
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that damages the macula of a person’s retina (the retina is the photographic film of the eye). As the disease progresses, it begins to blur the person’s central vision. It is caused by a slow breakdown of the protective photopigment and light sensitive cells of the macula. In severe forms, abnormal blood vessels can grow below the macula, which can lead to a rapid loss of central vision. This is referred to as wet macular degeneration.
The age-related eye disease study found that a certain combination of high dose antioxidant vitamins and minerals, taken orally, can reduce the risk of progression to the most severe form of the disease by 25%. Your optometrist can determine if you have risk factors for this disease and provide a means of prevention and treatment. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50.
Bleparitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that can lead to eye discomfort, redness, tearing, lid deformity and frequent styes or chalazions.
AMBLYOPIA OR LAZY EYE
An eye that never reaches its full visual potential. Amblyopia can be caused by a turned eye (a.k.a. strabismus), cataracts in infancy, or due to unequal vision disorders, such as myopia or hyperopia in one eye that is much greater than in the fellow eye. People with amblyopia are at a greater risk to lose vision in the healthy eye due to below normal binocular vision. Having a lazy eye can limit a person’s choice of careers, such as restricting them for applying for positions in the police force. If detected early, a lazy eye can be treated and its effects can be reversed through visual training. Visual training has the best prognosis of visual recovery if started before the age of eight years old. It is important for parents to know that a child cannot reliably report poor vision until the age of about 9, and therefore all children, even in the absence of vision complaints or symptoms, should have their vision tested from the age of 6 months and then yearly from the age of 3.
POSTERIOR VITREOUS DETACHMENT
A common condition in the elderly, it represents aging and shrinking of the gel-like substance (ie. vitreous humour) within the eye. Symptoms may include the appearance of flashing lights or floaters. Floaters are often described as flies or cobwebs that may move as the eye moves. A vitreous detachment can lead to a retinal detachment, which is a much more serious eye condition. However, both conditions have very similar symptoms. An eye care professional should be seen immediately to determine which condition you have.
Retianl detachment is an ocular emergency that, as its name suggests, is a detachment of the eye’s retina. It can lead to sudden and permanent vision loss. Early symptoms may include the appearance of flashing lights or floaters.
NEARSIGHTEDNESS OR MYOPIA
The inability to see distant objects clearly. Myopia can cause difficulty driving, poor night vision, learning difficulties and headaches. People will often squint in an attempt to see well. Severe cases require a person with myopia to hold reading material at a very close distance in order to see.
FARSIGHTEDNESS OR HYPEROPIA
The inability to focus on near objects and in severe cases can also cause distance objects to appear blurry. It is frequently accompanied by headaches, reading difficulties and learning difficulties in children. To compensate, a person with farsightedness may have to hold objects at a further than normal reading distance.
Can accompany nearsightedness or farsightedness. It is the result of an eye that is shaped like a football. It causes light to be focused at two points within the eye instead of one. The one place light should be focused in order to have clear vision is at the retina. Astigmatism can cause distorted vision at all distances, leading to headaches, eyestrain and squinting. Astigmatism can be corrected with toric lenses.
Is the eye’s loss of focusing ability that naturally occurs with age. It results in difficulty reading and often appears in a person’s forties. It also can lead to headaches and having to hold reading materials at a further than normal reading distance.
The Importance of Regular Eye Exams
Vision is a gift and should never be taken for granted. However, there is a common misconception that if a person sees well, then their eyes must be healthy. In reality, many sight threatening eye diseases have no early warning symptoms. Optometrists can detect eye disease in the absence of symptoms and can determine risk factors for future eye disease. Early intervention through regular eye exams is the best way to maintain healthy eyes and good vision. Many general health conditions first appear as signs within the eye and therefore can be detected within the course of a routine eye exam.
What is an Optometrist?
Optometrists are clinically trained to provide front-line vision care. Optometrists must have completed at least 7 years of university education in order to receive their license and must participate in continuing education courses throughout their career. Optometrists can diagnose and treat eye focusing problems, eye coordination problems and diseases and disorders of the eye and visual system.