Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can ambush you. It has few, if any, symptoms and until recently, definitive testing and diagnosis has been a challenge because of the subtle nature of the disease. Glaucoma does progressive, irreversible damage to the optic nerve fibers that send visual information to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss and in advanced stages, blindness. However, there are effective glaucoma treatments that can reduce the progression of the disease, if it is diagnosed early.
Diagnosis is essential to treating glaucoma. Thanks to new technology, glaucoma diagnosis is much more definitive than procedures available up to now.
The most common form of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma, associated with an increase in the fluid pressure in the eye. Not everyone with high intraocular pressure will develop glaucoma—some people with “normal pressure” will develop glaucoma because of the relative frailness of their ocular nerve fibers and tissues. Other types of glaucoma may develop from injury to the eye, chronic inflammation or as a side-effect to certain medications, like corticosteroids.
Are you at risk for Glaucoma?
Certain factors can increase the risk for developing glaucoma:
Regular Eye Exams are Recommended
If you have an increased risk for glaucoma, a complete eye examination is strongly recommended, with appropriate follow-up. The eye exam should include a discussion of your health history; vision tests to determine if any vision loss has occurred; tonometry, which measures the pressure inside the eye; a visual field test, and a retinal examination. New technologies, such as optical coherent technology (OCT) can provide a high resolution, three-dimensional scan of the back of the eye to identify possible thinning of the nerve tissue or anomalies in the optic nerve bundle. These new eye scans are quick, non-invasive, relatively inexpensive, and in most cases covered by insurance or Medicare.
Glaucoma may be treated with medications, usually an eye drop or a combination of medications, depending upon how well the patient’s intraocular pressure responds. Surgery may also be used for reducing eye pressure as well as laser treatment to improve drainage and reduce eye pressure. Treatments can prevent or slow progression of glaucoma, but cannot reverse vision loss, which is why early diagnosis and treatment is so important!
While many people focus on seeing a doctor and dentist regularly for annual physical exams and deep cleanings, many people neglect regular visits to the eye doctor unless a problem arises. It is important that everyone has their eyes checked regularly because some problems are not noticed by patients until symptoms develop. It is important to catch any problems early because they are easier to treat at early stages. Furthermore, it is vital that everyone takes steps to protect their eyes and preserve their vision. While many people already wear sunglasses outside, these simple tools provide numerous vision benefits.
Did you know…
While many people understand the risk that ultraviolet radiation from the sun poses to skin, these rays as damaging to the eyes as well. In addition to making a fashion statement, sunglasses also protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation. Over time, this radiation can accumulate and damage portions of the eyes such as the retina and the macula. When these tissues don’t function properly, people will start to notice changes in their vision. People should take steps to protect their eyes with sunglasses. What are some common questions that people have surrounding eye protection?
One of the most common vision problems that develop with age is called cataracts. These are clouding that develops on the lenses of the eyes that cloud people’s vision and make it difficult to see. Studies have estimated that 20% of these cases are due to excessive UV radiation exposure. By wearing sunglasses, people will protect their eyes and slow the development of cataracts. Another common vision problem is called macular degeneration. This condition is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Macular degeneration is caused by damage to the retina due to excessive UV radiation exposure. By wearing sunglasses, everyone can preserve their macula, save their retina, and their vision.
Ultraviolet, or UV rays, are emitted from the sun and are classified by wavelength. UV rays have a slightly shorter wavelength than the rays of light that define the color violet. These are rays that are slightly too short for the eyes to interpret as color on the visual spectrum. The short wavelength also means the rays have a high energy and therefore can damage the eyes with this energy.
When looking to purchase sunglasses, it is vital that people read the information on the sunglasses to make sure the accessories provide the type of protection they’re looking for. Read the labels and packaging to make sure that the sunglasses block 99% of both UVA and UVB radiation. These are the two types of UV radiation that can cause severe damage to the eyes. While there are many options for sunglasses on the market, it is important to read the labels and make sure the investment in the fashion statement doubles as an investment in vision protection.
Myopia is a refractive error that causes nearsightedness and blurred vision when looking at a distance. The condition is very common, affecting approximately 30 percent of the total U.S. population. The condition usually develops in childhood and gradually worsens throughout adolescence. In some cases, people develop myopia after Myopia is easily diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam and corrected with various treatments, including glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.
Hyperopia is a refractive error that causes farsightedness and blurred vision when looking at objects up close. Approximately 1 in 2 people has some degree of hyperopia, which may also cause headaches and eyestrain. Hyperopia is typically genetic and usually develops in childhood. The condition is easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam and treated with glasses or contacts.
Astigmatism occurs when the eye’s natural lens becomes misshapen. There can be varying degrees of corneal astigmatism, which often occurs in people with other vision impairments, such as myopia and hyperopia. Astigmatism is very common, causing blurry or distorted vision, as well as the potential for headaches or eye strain. A optometrist can diagnose astigmatism during a standard eye exam and prescribe treatment, such as glasses or contacts, to help treat it.
Amblyopia is a condition in which the brain only one eye instead of both. Also known as ‘lazy eye’, this condition only develops in children and may cause vision loss and other conditions, such as crossed eyes. Usually, a child will develop amblyopia no later than age 6, though it may appear much sooner than that. Your optometrist can diagnose amblyopia during a comprehensive eye exam. A child with ‘lazy eye’ will need to wear prescription lenses and may need vision therapy to help treat the condition.
Presbyopia is a refractive error in which the eye is no longer capable of focusing correctly. It is primarily age-related and occurs in all people – usually sometime after age 40. Presbyopia is a not a disease though it can make reading and viewing objects up close much more difficult. A comprehensive eye exam can evaluate visual acuity and diagnose presbyopia. Often, patients only require reading glasses to manage the problem, though prescription bifocals, trifocals or contact lenses may be necessary for some people.
Emmetropia is the term used to describe an eye with normal vision strength, curvature and eyeball length. People with emmetropia require no corrective lenses, as images come into natural focus on the retina.
Macular degeneration is a disease in which the macula weakens, resulting in a loss of central vision. The condition, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), can cause blurring and even partial vision loss. There are two types of macular degeneration – wet and dry. Most people with the disease have the latter version, which is caused solely by an aging macula. However, some people have wet macular degeneration, which occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow inside the macula. The wet version can lead to permanent scarring and loss of central vision.
Did you know…
that macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in America? Currently, there are approximately 1.8 million adults over age 40 who have macular degeneration – most of whom are seniors ages 75 and up. Even more – 7.3 million – are currently considered at high risk of developing the disease. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimates the prevalence of macular degeneration to grow, reaching nearly 3 million by the year 2020.
Age is the most influential risk factor for developing macular degeneration, though the disease is also common in Caucasians, and people who smoke. The symptoms of metabolic syndromes such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, can also increase the risk of developing macular degeneration.
In most cases, the symptoms of macular degeneration begin gradually and progress slowly over time. People often describe having blurry vision or blind spots, as well as difficulty perceiving color. Anyone who is experiencing unusual vision changes should schedule an optometry appointment. A routine eye exam can identify AMD in its earliest stages, which may improve long-term management of the disease.
There is no cure for macular degeneration although an optometrist can help manage the condition. People with AMD may benefit from certain nutritional supplements like zinc and beta-carotene, as well as certain drug therapies as the disease becomes more advanced. Wet macular degeneration often requires greater interventions, which may include laser therapy to target and destroy abnormal blood vessels in the eye.
Keratoconus is a condition of the eye in which the cornea becomes thin and misshapen. Whereas a normal cornea is round, a cornea affected by keratoconus will begin to bulge and take on a cone-like shape. Keratoconus is believed to be linked to a congenital problem. Though it may take many years before the condition starts to affect sight, the tendency to develop the disease is believed to be present at birth. Researchers are unsure of the exact cause of keratoconus though it seems to be associated with a collagen defect.
Did you know…
that people who develop keratoconus are often people who have been diagnosed with nearsightedness? Since a nearsighted person’s vision tends to worsen over time, resulting in astigmatism. Keratoconus can run in families, so children of parents with the disease should be screened periodically beginning at age 10. Early diagnosis is possible with regular screening though it is often not until the teen years that keratoconus is first diagnosed.
Initial symptoms of keratoconus initially include blurred vision. However, many people eventually begin to experience nighttime sight disruptions, such as halos or glare. Anyone who does not achieve 20/20 sight with the aid of corrective lenses may have keratoconus and should contact their optometrist for an exam. Various tests, including corneal topography, slit-lamp examination and pachymetry, are all used to diagnose and measure the progression of keratoconus in its various stages
Most people with keratoconus are treated with rigid gas-permeable contact lenses designed to compensate for the abnormal curvature of the eye. Certain corrective vision treatments are also available to help delay or completely prevent the need for greater interventions, such as corneal transplantation. Examples include keratoplasty to reshape the cornea and corneal implants.
Though there is nothing you can do to prevent the condition, there are steps you can take to keep keratoconus from rapidly developing in your eyes. Eye allergies have been linked to rapid development of keratoconus, as has frequent eye rubbing. By treating eye allergies and avoiding eye rubbing, it may be possible to slow the progression of keratoconus.
Allergies are an annoying part of life for more than 50 million Americans – many of whom live right here in our neighborhood. Though allergens can trigger symptoms in many different areas of the body, the sensitive membranes of the eyes are especially vulnerable to irritation. Though the allergens themselves are harmless, the body’s immune system considers them a threat and begins to resist them. The result is puffy, red and watery eyes that may itch and even hurt.
Did you know…
that an estimated 30 percent of U.S. adults and 40 percent of children have seasonal allergies? Many of those individuals experience eye irritation caused by pollen or mold spores. However, non-seasonal allergens, such as pet dander and dust mites, can also trigger eye irritation.
Red and irritated eyes are often caused by allergies, especially if they are associated with other allergy-related symptoms like sneezing. Your symptoms are likely caused by allergies if you notice they are temporary, follow a specific pattern or if you find relief after taking anti-histamines. You should still schedule an appointment with your optometrist to ensure your symptoms are not caused by an eye infection or other serious condition that could affect your eyesight.
You may need eye allergy treatment watery eyes are causing blurry vision or affecting your quality of life on a day-to-day basis. If over-the-counter remedies like saline drops are not effective in relieving your symptoms, your optometrist may recommend prescription strength eye drops or oral medications.
You may not be able to cure your allergies, but there are steps you can take to help prevent symptoms from getting out of hand. During seasons when pollen or mold levels are high, try to stay indoors as much as possible. If you wear contact lenses, be sure to rinse them and your contact case daily to prevent airborne allergens from contaminating them.
Corneal refractive therapy (CRT) is a non-surgical means of minimizing nearsightedness in vision patients. Also known as orthokeratology, CRT uses gas-permeable lenses similar to traditional contact lenses to reshape the cornea at during sleep. During the day, patients can experience a better natural vision without the aid of corrective lenses. The unique design of CRT lenses temporarily reshapes the eye, providing results that can last as long as two to three days.
Did you know…
that most CRT patients achieve a daytime vision that is at least 20/40? In fact, some people even achieve a vision that is 20/20 or greater with continual wear. Many patients choose CRT lenses as an alternative to refractive surgery because they are non-surgical and are cost less to begin therapy. Furthermore, after the first year of therapy, the annual cost of CRT therapy is comparable to the costs of wearing contact lenses.
CRT may be right for you if you suffer from myopia (nearsightedness) but are otherwise in relatively good health. To find out more about CRT and whether it’s right for you, contact your eye doctor to schedule a consultation.
You will visit your eye doctor for a complete eye exam to determine if CRT is right for you. You’ll then be fitted for special CRT lenses that you will wear only at night. Keep in mind that it is normal to experience some discomfort while wearing these lenses, although you may find that you adapt to the feel of CRT lenses over time. In the morning, you will remove your lenses and experience improved vision without the aid of contacts or glasses.
Simply follow you eye doctor’s instructions for use, and practice good hygiene and hand-washing before handling your lenses. Keep in mind that it takes time for corneal refractive therapy to begin producing results. You should begin to notice a significant difference in your daytime vision in as little as three weeks.
Contact lenses are a discreet way of managing vision impairments without being tied to a pair of glasses. Many optometric patients choose contacts over eyeglasses because they are convenient, comfortable, and capable of correcting vision without affecting appearance. There are two classifications of contacts – soft and hard. Soft lenses are the most popular and are most commonly used to treat people with age-related vision loss, astigmatism, nearsightedness, or farsightedness. They form to the shape of the eye and tend to stay in place for the duration of wear. Hard lenses, on the other hand, can also be used to treat most vision impairments, but are less versatile and more likely to move out of place. Patients who choose hard lenses typically do so in favor of the crisper and clearer vision they achieve with them.
Did you know…
that more than 30 million people in the U.S. wear contact lenses? The majority of those people are females over the age of 25 who wear soft lenses. However, children as young as 10 years old could be candidates for contacts so long as they are capable of following all wear and care instructions.
You may be a candidate for contact lenses if you require vision correction lenses and are looking for a non-surgical alternative to eyeglasses. To find out if contacts are right for you, schedule an appointment with you eye doctor.
Your eye doctor will conduct a thorough eye exam and prescribe a contact lens brand and power based on the results of your eye exam and your frequency of wear. You’ll be fitted with a trial pair of lenses before you leave the office and asked to return for a follow-up visit several days or weeks later.
You will be given instructions designed to help you protect your new contacts, as well as your eyes. If you fail to follow these instructions, you risk getting a corneal infection that could threaten your sight. Most importantly, you’ll be instructed to wash your hands prior to handling your contacts. Depending on the type of lenses you wear, you may also need to remove your contacts at night before bed.
Clear and healthy vision is essential to childhood development. Your child should have an initial examination before entering pre-school, and earlier if you notice any behaviors that might indicate a vision problem, such as squinting, rubbing or eye irritation.The initial child’s exam is different from an adult’s exam and focuses on vision, eye alignment, and the eye’s ability to work together. It is an important part of your child’s overall health to ensure that the eyes and vision are developing appropriately.
Children’s vision care should begin at birth and continue throughout childhood and adolescence. Without professional vision screenings, children can grow up with a distorted vision that eventually causes complications during the school years. According to the American Optometric Association, undiagnosed and untreated vision problems can worsen in children because the brain learns to accommodate the distortion over time. Furthermore, untreated vision discrepancies can lead to academic, athletic and social handicaps that hold kids back from their ultimate potential.
Did you know…
that an estimated one in every four children is suffering from some kind of vision problem? Often these problems go undetected throughout childhood and even into the teenage years. In fact, as many as 11 percent of U.S. teens have vision problems that have not been professionally diagnosed.
Yes. Your child’s first eye exam should occur before he or she ever leaves the hospital at birth. Additional pediatric eye health screenings should occur every year from that point forward, with the first vision acuity test occurring around 3 ½. Even if your child performs well on vision tests, contact your eye doctor if you notice that your child is suddenly rubbing his or her eyes, squinting or demonstrating behaviors that seem to compensate for poor vision, such as sitting too close to the television.
The extent of your child’s eye examinations will depend on his or her age. For most kids, exams will check the health of near vision, distance vision, peripheral field awareness, eye movement and tracking, focusing capabilities, and eye-hand coordination.
There is little you can do between eye exams to help your child’s vision health other than encouraging him or her to wear UV-protective sunglasses and feed your child a nutritious diet high in antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein, as well as omega-3 fats. Contrary to popular belief, sitting too close to the TV will not harm your child’s eyes.
Cataracts are common, age-related clouding of the clear lens that covers the eye. Though they are not dangerous or threatening to the health of the eye, cataracts can be an inconvenience when performing seemingly routine tasks, such as reading, driving, cooking, or watching TV. Cataracts often start small and evolve into larger vision obstructions. Some of the most common symptoms of cataracts include clouded and blurred vision, as well as impaired night vision, light sensitivity, or seeing halos around lights. Treatment for cataracts usually begins conservatively using eyeglasses or simply turning on brighter lights. But as cataracts progress, they may require vision restoration surgery.
Did you know…
that more than 50 percent of Americans age 80 or older either have at least one eye cataract or otherwise have already had one or more cataracts removed? The risk of getting cataracts increases with age, but that doesn’t mean that younger people in their 40’s and 50’s can’t get them too. In order to lower your risk of getting cataracts, the National Eye Institute recommends protecting your eyes with brimmed hats and a nutritious diet full of leafy green vegetables and antioxidant-rich foods.
Although you should be seeing your eye doctor regularly for eye exams, it is important to make an appointment at the first sign of vision changes. If you have not had any vision changes, but your are age 60 or older, you should be getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam and the minimum of one time every two years.
Cataract surgery is a very safe procedure performed every day across the U.S. If you require surgery on both eyes, note that only one eye will be operated on at a time. During the surgery, your eye will be numbed and you may be placed under sedation to help you relax during the procedure. Using a special instrument – often a laser – your eye doctor will carefully remove the clouded lens from your eye and replace it with an artificial one made of silicone, plastic, or acrylic. Because cataract removal is an outpatient procedure, you should be able to return home the same day as your surgery.
Cataract surgery is successful in about 98 percent of all cases. Following the post-operative instructions of your eye doctor can help improve your chances of a positive outcome. You will experience some mild itching following your surgery, as well as some sensitivity to light. Be sure to use the eye drops prescribed to you in the days following your procedure and avoid lifting heavy objects or putting pressure on the eyes during the healing period.