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Saturday, January 29, 2011

What you need to know about eye diseases and disorders and their symptoms

Did you know that some of the most damaging eye diseases and disorders can be treated if caught early? It is common for people to think that if they see 20/20 without glasses or contact lenses that they do not need to have their eyes checked, or often people think that if they see OK with their glasses or contact lenses that everything is healthy.  However good ocular health involves more than just good vision.  Getting comprehensive eye health evaluations can protect eyes from future problems. 

Additionally, those symptoms that may just seem more like annoyances may be indications of an underlying problem.  Signs indicating you may have an eye disorder include:

• Blind spots
• Blurred or cloudy vision
• Chronic tearing
• Floaters
• Headaches
• Increased sensitivity to light
• Red watery eyes
• Scratchy feeling in eyes

It’s important to have your eyes examined by an optometrist who specializes in all aspects of eye health, including the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and disorders. State-of-the-art equipment and specially-trained staff allow for the treatment of a wide variety of eye problems, including:

• Glaucoma
• Cataracts
• Retinal Detachment
• Blephaitis
• Conjunctivitis
• Macular Degeneration
• Diabetic Retinopathy
• Chronic Dry Eye
• Amblyopia
• Keratoconus

We will go into detail with each of the above disorders, but here is a brief overview:

Glaucoma – damage to the optic nerve. The first signs of damage are side (peripheral) vision defects and difficulty with night vision. However, by the time these symptoms are noticeable to patients, nerve damage is well under way.  Early diagnosis and treatment with drugs or sometimes surgery can minimize vision loss.
Cataracts– a clouding of the lens inside the eye. Causes are aging, long-term exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, injury, disease and inherited disorders. If the eye is healthy, a cataract can be surgically removed and vision restored, usually with intraocular lens implants.
Retinal Detachment– the retina separates from its underlying layer. Causes are holes in the retina, eye trauma, infection, blood vessel disturbance or a tumor.  Most can be surgically re-attached with partial to complete restoration of vision.
Blepharitis– an inflammation of the eyelids and eyelash folicles. Good eyelid hygiene may control blepharitis.  When caused by bacterial infection, various antibiotics may be used in treatment. 
Conjunctivitis– an inflammation of the layer that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Symptoms are red watery eyes, inflamed inner eyelids, blurred vision, a scratchy feeling in the eyes, and sometimes a discharge. Various treatments are available depending on the cause of inflammation.
Macular Degeneration– an area on the retina responsible for sharp central vision deteriorates, causing blurred vision, and for some, a blind spot in the central area of vision. It is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50, and smoking triples the risk for developing this disease.
Diabetic Retinopathy– retinal blood vessels develop tiny, abnormal branches that leak. This interferes with vision and causes damage to the retina over time. Laser procedures and surgical treatments can reduce its progression, but systemic control of diabetes is important.
Chronic Dry Eye– the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears do not have the proper composition. Causes include age, blinking or eyelid problems, medications, dry climate, wind, dust, and trauma to the eyes. Treatments are available so the eyes remain healthy and vision unaffected.
Amblyopia(Lazy Eye) – the loss or lack of development of central vision in one eye. It usually develops before age six. Symptoms may include noticeably favoring one eye or a tendency to bump into objects on one side.  More often, this disorder often goes unnoticed until examination.  Treatment may include a combination of prescription lenses, prisms, vision therapy, eye patching, and eye drops.  Early diagnosis increases the chance for a complete recovery.
Keratoconus– the cornea becomes thin and irregular shaped, which causes distortion of vision.  Gas permeable or hybrid contact lenses may be used to correct mild to moderate cases, whereas more severe cases may require surgical intervention.nearsightedness and astigmatism that it causes.

An optometrist will monitor your eye health if you have a medical or family history of diseases that cause eye problems, and put preventive screening measures in place to detect problems early before damaging results occur. Special lenses, medications, and sometimes surgery, can help you live comfortably with an eye disease, or correct the disorder completely.

If unchecked, eye problems can cause serious damage to your vision. Make the health of your eyes a priority to keep you seeing well not just now, but for a lifetime.