Eyes are the gateways to our souls. This age-old metaphor has various implied meanings, but one thing that resonates with us is our sense of vision. Eyes are our wonderful asset, and maintaining their health is essential.
We all experience eye problems at some point in our lives. These minor issues don't last too long, but specific eye problems can lead to blindness. Some pass down from generations, and others come with the onset of old age. These severe eye infections require urgent medical help, and if reported early, you can prevent most of these problems.
The advancements in the medical field have enabled physicians to treat almost any eye problem. What is required is an early diagnosis of the said problem. In this article, we will discuss various eye problems that may have a more profound impact on your vision and how you can overcome them.
A cataract is the clouding of one’s eye lens and is the leading cause of blindness across the globe. A cataract is more prominent in old age. Early cataract symptoms are close to none, but you will develop blurred vision over time. As a result, you may have trouble reading and performing daily activities. A cataract may lead to severe vision loss if left untreated.
Most cataracts trigger due to old age because of the depreciating eye health. After the age of 40, the protein inside your lens starts breaking down and clumps together to form a cloudy area. You may also develop a cataract due to an eye injury or after surgery for another eye-related problem. You may develop a cataract in one or both eyes, but it does not spread from one eye to another.
You will develop symptoms of a cataract when it has grown. A cataract diagnosis requires a dilated eye exam. Visit an optometrist if you develop any of the following symptoms:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Faded colours
- Reduced eyesight at night
- Increased sensitivity of the eye
- Double vision
Prevention And Treatment
You need to protect your eyes to prevent or delay cataracts. Some key steps that you can take include:
- Wear sunglasses and a hat to block the sun or extra brightness.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
- Eat green leafy vegetables such as spinach and collard greens.
- Get your eye checked regularly every year if you are above 60 years.
Treatment of cataracts depends upon your condition and the growth of cataracts:
- Home Treatment: If diagnosed early, you can incorporate small preventive changes in your lifestyle to manage cataracts.
- New Glasses: New prescription eyeglasses will reduce strain on your eyes and help you see better with cataracts.
- Surgery: This is the only sure way to get rid of cataracts. The surgical process is safe and effective. Your optometrist may suggest surgery if the cataract is hampering your everyday activities such as reading, walking, driving, etc. During surgery, the clouded lens is replaced with an intraocular lens which is an artificial lens.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes that triggers by prolonged high blood sugar levels. If the eye condition is left untreated, it may cause permanent blindness. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.
Progressive damage to the blood vessel located at the retina affects its ability to receive the proper nutrients it requires. Anyone with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is at the risk of developing this condition. People with diabetes are also likely to develop eye conditions such as cataracts and open-angle glaucoma.
Furthermore, diabetic retinopathy may also lead to further eye problems such as:
- Diabetic macular oedema: The blood vessels leak the fluid in the macula that is necessary for a focused and sharp vision leading to blurred vision.
- Neovascular glaucoma: This type of glaucoma causes vision loss and blindness when abnormal blood vessels grow out of the retina.
- Retinal Detachment: Formation of scars in the back of the eye.
Common symptoms include:
- Trouble reading or seeing faraway objects.
- Formation of dark spots or streaks
Prevention And Treatment
The best possible way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to maintain your diabetes.
- Maintain blood sugar levels
- Eating healthy
- Physical activity
- Lower Cholesterol intake
- Maintaining blood pressure levels
Treatment of the condition involves stopping your vision from getting any worse. After a dilated eye exam, your physician may start treatment right away if you have changes in your vision.
- Medicines: Injections called anti-VEGF drugs help to reduce or reverse diabetic retinopathy.
- Laser Treatment: An optometrist will use laser surgery treatment to reduce the swelling in your retina by shrinking the blood vessel and stopping leakage.
- Vitrectomy: Vitrectomy is an eye surgery that your physician will recommend if there is a lot of bleeding in the retina or you have a lot of scars.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that causes blindness, blind spots or loss of peripheral vision. The condition occurs due to damage caused to the optic nerve that worsens over time. An abrupt rise in the intraocular pressure (the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes) can damage the optic nerves.
The symptoms of the condition arise slowly. It starts with a loss in the side or peripheral vision. The symptoms build up gradually, and the patient might not even know about it. Over time the conditions can worsen so much that you can’t see anything to the side.
Primarily, there are two significant types of glaucoma reported:
- Open-angle glaucoma: This is the most commonly reported type of glaucoma. This chronic condition develops over time without the person noticing a vision loss until it is in an advanced stage.
- Closed-angle glaucoma: This condition accompanies a lot of pain. The loss of vision also progresses quickly in this condition.
Almost half of the people don’t even know if they have glaucoma. The disease doesn’t have any early symptoms. Over time as the condition worsens, you will feel:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Blind spots
Glaucoma can happen in one or both eyes. It may arise from high eye pressure, but people with normal eye pressure can also experience glaucoma.
Prevention And Treatment
There is no cure for glaucoma, and early treatment is the only way to improve your condition. Therefore, a comprehensive dilated eye exam is required as early as possible. Your doctor will start your treatment right away to stop your disease from getting worse.
- Medicines: Prescription eye drops help in regulating eye pressure. They prevent further damage to the optic nerve by lowering the eye pressure.
- Laser Treatment: Doctors may use laser treatment to drain the fluid to lower the eye pressure.
- Surgery: If medicines and laser treatment do not achieve the desired results, your optometrist suggests you undergo surgery. They will use a surgical method to drain the fluid from your eye to lower the eye pressure.
Glaucoma is a severe eye condition that may cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. Be sure to take all the medicines prescribed by the doctor. Go for regular eye checkups and inform the doctor about the side effects of the treatment, if any.
Glaucoma also runs in families, so encourage your family members to get their eye exam as early as possible.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness. This common eye problem is associated with a loss of central vision due to ageing. Your central vision is essential for you to see objects. In this condition, your macula gets affected. The macula is a part of the retina that perceives light and is responsible for central vision.
AMD is a common eye disorder that affects older adults. It may not cause complete vision loss but may affect your ability to read, drive, or perform daily activities. The two types of AMD are as follows:
- Wet AMD:This condition arises due to the growth of abnormal blood vessels behind the retina. As this blood vessel grows, it leads to blood and fluid leakage. The damage caused to the macula due to bleeding and scarring leads to rapid loss of central vision. During the early stages of this condition, straight lines appear wavy.
- Dry AMD: This condition is the more common form of AMD that arises due to ageing. Over time the macula thins and causes blurry vision. As the macula's function reduces, the affected eye loses central sight. It generally affects both the eyes. An early symptom of Dry AMD is the formation of drusen.
People above the age of 60 have tiny yellow or white deposits under the retina. These are called drusen. The formation of drusen is typical in old age, but large amounts of drusen may be a symptom of advanced AMD in the person.
Dry AMD happens over three stages: early, intermediate, and late. While early and intermediate dry AMD doesn't show much of the symptoms. It is in the later stages the symptoms start to get worse. Some key symptoms include:
- Straight lines appear wavy
- Blurred vision
- Blank spots
- Trouble seeing in low lighting
- Formation of drusen
Prevention And Treatment
The treatment you will receive will depend on the stage and type of AMD. Your doctor will keep track of your condition with regular eye exams and keep you updated. Meanwhile, you can:
- Eat green leafy vegetables
- Perform physical exercises
- Avoid smoking or drinking
Doctors prescribe special dietary supplements in intermediate dry AMD, which will stop your condition from worsening further. These may also help slow down the AMD in one eye if you have late dry AMD in another. Currently, there is no treatment available for late dry AMD.
Treatments that will be able to help in wet AMD are:
- Medicines: Anti-VEGF injections
- PDT: Photodynamic therapy or PDT combines laser treatment and injections. It is a two-step treatment in which abnormal blood vessels gets damaged using laser treatment, and then a drug is injected. Afterwards, with the help of a cold laser, the drug is activated, which damages the abnormal vessels further.
Amblyopia is a common vision impairment in children. Also referred to as "lazy eye," this happens when vision in one of the eyes gets reduced. This reduced function is due to a breakdown in how the brain and eye work together. As a result, the brain relies on the other eye more, and the vision in the weaker eye worsens over time.
The eye looks normal, but it isn't used because the brain relies on the other more. Amblyopia can also trigger, due to imbalances in the position of the two eyes, a condition termed as strabismus. Refractive errors such as farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism may also make the brain rely on one eye more than the other.
It's easier to treat the condition successfully in early childhood, but if left untreated, even adults start experiencing it. Amblyopia is the most common cause of one-eye vision impairment in children.
Children with amblyopia have poor depth perception. As a result, early symptoms of the condition may be tough to notice, but parents can look out for signs such as:
- Children are tilting their heads.
- Shutting off one eye.
Prevention And Treatment
The doctor will try and treat the eye condition leading to amblyopia first. In refractive errors, doctors may recommend glasses or contacts for children. Also, if the child has developed a cataract, the doctor may suggest a surgical method to treat it.
Once the vision problem gets treated, the next step is to improve the functioning of the weaker eye. Doctors can achieve this by retraining the brain to use it more.
- Eye-patching: You can make the brain use the other eye more by wearing an eye patch on the stronger eye. Wearing it for a few hours a day can help improve the weaker eye's functioning.
- Eye-drops: Special eye drops of the drug atropine blur the stronger eye's vision and force the brain to use the other one. Some people find this method easier to use, and the treatment is as effective as an eye patch.