Myopia, more popularly known as nearsightedness, is a common refractive error. Approximately a quarter of the general population may be affected. Myopic individuals see better up close than in the distance. This is because the eye improperly focuses light too strongly, causing blurred vision in the distance. Common complaints due to myopia include blurred distance vision, squinting, eye strain and headaches. Refractive errors such as myopia are commonly corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses. Refractive surgery is another possibility.
Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is a common refractive error. Approximately 25% of the general population may be affected. Farsighted individuals see better in the distance than up close because the eye does not effectively focus light. Farsightedness is very common among elementary school-age children and is a frequent cause of reading and learning difficulties. Common complaints due to hyperopia include eye fatigue, eye strain and headaches. Refractive errors such as hyperopia are commonly corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses. Refractive surgery is another possibility.
Astigmatism is an irregular curvature of the front surface of the eye that results in blurred vision at all distances. It is a common refractive error, just like nearsightedness and farsightedness. Common complaints due to astigmatism include night vision issues and eye fatigue with computer use. Eyeglasses, contact lenses and refractive surgery are all effective treatments for astigmatism.
Presbyopia is an inevitable condition in which the ability to focus on close objects decreases over time. Since it is a natural effect of aging, it will eventually affect everyone. Today’s baby boomer generation is the most rapidly growing population segment requiring vision correction. Symptoms may include headaches, blurred near vision, tearing, stinging, or a need for more light. People with presbyopia often hold reading material at arm’s length. Eyeglasses and contact lenses can be effective treatments for presbyopia.
Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
Amblyopia describes weak vision or vision loss in one eye that cannot be fully corrected with lenses. It usually develops in children before age eight. This is also the key time to treat amblyopia, since results are better the earlier they are implemented. It becomes extremely difficult to treat amblyopia after age 8. Amblyopia is more than simply an eye health problem. It involves the wiring of the nerve impulses from the eyes to the brain. Treatment typically includes vision therapy, eyeglasses and contact lenses, or a patch. Surgery alone cannot treat amblyopia.
Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)
Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes. One or both eyes may turn in (esotropia), out (exotropia), up (hypertropia) or down (hypotropia). Treatment may include the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, prisms and/or vision therapy. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed.
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 colours, 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% 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. Individuals should avoid cigarette smoke, air pollution and alcohol consumption.
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 is a matter of some debate among health care professionals.
Glaucoma is a condition in which elevated pressure inside 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: There may be no early warning signs, so optometric exams are crucial. In some types of glaucoma, pain, blurred vision and the appearance of coloured rings around lights are experienced.
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.
Spots and Floaters
Floaters are small, semi-transparent or cloudy specks or particles within the vitreous, which is the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eyes. They appear as specks of various shapes and sizes, threadlike strands or cobwebs. Because they are within your eyes, they move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly.
Spots are often caused by small flecks of protein or other matter trapped during the formation of your eyes before birth. They can also result from deterioration of the vitreous fluid, due to aging – or from certain eye diseases or injuries.
Most spots are not harmful and rarely limit vision. But, spots can be indications of more serious problems, and you should see your optometrist for a comprehensive examination when you notice sudden changes or see increases in them.
By looking in your eyes with special instruments, your optometrist can examine the health of your eyes and determine if what you are seeing is harmless or the symptom of a more serious problem that requires treatment.
Retinal detachment is the separation of the retina from the underlying layer of support tissue. Initial detachment may be localized, but without rapid treatment the entire retina may detach, leading to reduced vision and blindness. It is a medical emergency; surgery is required to place the retina back into its proper position.
The symptoms of retinal detachment can include some of the following:
-Flashes of light
-A sudden dramatic increase in the number of floaters
-A slight feeling of heaviness in the eye
-A dense shadow that starts in the peripheral vision and slowly progresses towards the central vision
-An impression that a veil or curtain was drawn over the field of vision
-Straight lines that suddenly appear curved
-Central vision loss
Diabetes of the Eye
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, excessive alcohol intake and pregnancy.
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.
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 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.
An allergic reaction that affects the conjunctiva, a clear layer of skin overlying the eyes, is commonly referred to as allergic conjunctivitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis is divided into several major subtypes, but the most common subtypes are seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) and perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC). SAC and PAC are triggered by an immune reaction involving a sensitized individual and an allergen. Simply stated, this means that if you are allergic to a particular substance and then come into contact with it, you experience an allergic reaction (e.g., itching, sneezing).
Although it frequently occurs, allergic conjunctivitis is most commonly seen in areas with high seasonal allergens. Common allergens include pollen, grass, weeds, dust and pet dander.
Conjunctivitis (also called “madras eye” or “pink eye”) is an acute inflammation of the conjunctiva (the outermost layer of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids), most commonly due to an allergic reaction or an infection (usually viral, but sometimes bacterial). It is signified by redness, irritation and watering.
Conjunctivitis may be allergic, viral, bacterial or chemical and may be highly contagious. Depending on the cause, a cool compress can alleviate symptoms, but antibiotics may be required.