Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s crystalline lens that usually develops slowly over time. (In the case of post-traumatic cataracts, however, they can also occur very quickly.) It is the leading cause of poor vision in adults.
Symptoms: Dimmed or blurred vision, double vision, halos or glare around lights, dull colors, sensation of a film over the eyes, frequent cleaning of the eyes, difficulty driving or reading, and frequent changing or cleaning of glasses.
Treatment: If a cataract grows larger or denser, it can be surgically removed. It is a safe procedure with a near 100 per cent success rate. Following surgery, it is normal to require a change in spectacle correction.
Prevention: Wearing UV protection when outdoors is very helpful. There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet high in beta carotene (vitamin A), may also help. selenium and vitamins C and E have preventative benefits. Avoiding cigarette smoke, air pollution and alcohol consumption.
Dry eyes are a problem that arises from inadequate or poor lubrication and moisture in one or both eyes. Unable to produce enough tears, afflicted eyes suffer irritation, burning, general discomfort and at times, excessive tearing.
Dry eyes may be caused by a number of factors: the natural effects of aging, side effects from medication, or significant time spent in a dry climate. Although there is no cure as such, your Optometrist is able to offer effective treatment to manage dry eyes. Artificial lubricating eye drops enhance tear production, and warm moist compresses as well as lid massages can help treat dry eyes. In some cases small plugs are inserted into the corner of the eyes to slow the drainage of tears.
Glaucoma is a condition in which elevated pressure in the eye, damages the optic nerve, causing peripheral and then total blindness. It is widely noted as the second-leading cause of blindness in adults.
Symptoms: in most cases there are no early warning signs, so routine optometric exams are critical. In some less common types of glaucoma, pain, blurred vision, and or sudden vision lost may be apparent.
Treatment: Once diagnosed, glaucoma treatments are highly effective. Prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment or even surgery may be involved. If untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness, which has no cure.
Prevention: Because there may be few symptoms, and vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored (the condition can only be halted), frequent monitoring by your optometrist for glaucoma is essential. The risk for glaucoma increases dramatically after age 35 and is often hereditary.
Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula (the part of the retina responsible for sharp reading vision) fails to function efficiently. It is a common cause of impaired reading or detailed vision and the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Macular degeneration is generally age-related.
Symptoms: Initial signs include blurred reading vision, a weakening of colour vision, distortion or loss of central vision (e.g., a dark spot in the middle of your field of vision), and distortion in straight lines.
Treatment: Although there is no cure, laser treatment can be effective in slowing the disease’s progression. As usual, early detection is key.
Prevention: Lifelong UV protection is very important. General nutrition is also believed to play a significant preventative role. Lutein may be especially helpful in this regard, particularly for lutein-deficient people like seniors. There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet high in beta carotene (vitamin A) and vitamins C and E can protect the macula. However, an over-abundance of any vitamin may affect your body’s ability to absorb important nutrients. This remains a matter of some debate among health care professionals.
Diabetes, a disease that prevents your body from making or using insulin to break down sugar in your bloodstream, can affect your eyes and your vision. Fluctuating or blurring of vision, intermittent double vision, loss of peripheral vision and flashes and floaters within the eyes may be symptoms related to diabetes. Sometimes the early signs of diabetes are detected during a thorough eye examination.
Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness and farsightedness and lead to premature presbyopia (the inability to focus on close objects). It can result in cataracts, glaucoma, a lack of eye muscle coordination (strabismus) and decreased corneal sensitivity. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, which, if not controlled, can lead to blindness.
What is retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels in the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes.
Can vision loss from diabetes be prevented?
Yes, in a routine eye examination, your eye care practitioner can diagnose potential vision-threatening changes in your eyes that may be treated to prevent blindness. However, once damage has occurred, the effects are usually permanent. It is important to control your diabetes as much as possible to minimize the risk of developing retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser therapy. A bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a burn that seals off leaking blood vessels. In other cases, surgery inside the eye may be necessary. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial. It is routinely screened for in an eye examination.
Are there risk factors for developing retinopathy?
Several factors that increase the risk of developing retinopathy include: smoking, high blood pressure or poor cardiovascular health, excessive alcohol intake, pregnancy, poor blood sugar control, and the number of years one has been diabetic.
How can diabetes-related eye problems be prevented?
Diabetes-related eye problems can be prevented by monitoring and maintaining control of your diabetes. See your physician regularly and follow instructions about diet, exercise and medication. A thorough eye examination when first diagnosed as a diabetic, and at least annually thereafter, is recommended.