Many Americans will experience some form of eye condition or vision problems at some point in their lives. The most common: refractive errors requiring prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. Other common eye conditions can have more serious implications, and may even result in permanent vision loss when not properly diagnosed and treated.
Here are the five most common eye conditions and how they can be treated:
- Refractive Errors: Nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia are all refractive errors that may require a dependence on prescription lenses. Refractive errors occur when the shape of the eye itself prevents light from focusing directly on the retina. Eyeball length, changes in the shape of the cornea and aging of the lens of the eye can all cause refractive errors. Symptoms of refractive errors include: blurred vision, double vision, haziness, glare or halos around bright lights, squinting, eye strain and headaches. Refractive errors can be diagnosed through a routine eye exam and treated with prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses or LASIK eye surgery.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration, or AMD, is commonly associated with aging and results in a decline in sharp central vision. It can make common daily tasks such as driving or reading more difficult. AMD affects the macula, which is the central part of the retina that allows the eye to see details. Symptoms include dark, blurry areas in the center of vision, diminished or changed color perception and straight lines that appear wavy. A healthy diet rich in dark green, leafy vegetables and plenty of vitamins is an important part of treatment for patients with macular degeneration. There are also some medications and therapies, such as Avastin, which block the development of new blood vessels and leaking from the abnormal vessels causing wet AMD.
- Cataracts: A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye; it is not a growth or a film on the lens as commonly thought. Cataracts are also commonly associated with age, although there are some cases where young adults and even children may develop cataracts. Common symptoms include difficulty seeing while driving, difficulty seeing TV or movies, difficulty reading and difficulty completing close-up tasks, such as writing, playing cards or sewing. Once clouding of the focusing lens begins, there is nothing that can be done to make it clear again, or to slow the progression of the cataract
- growth. To restore vision lost due to cataracts, the cloudy lens must be removed and replaced with a clear, plastic lens implant.
- Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is caused by diabetes and can lead to significant vision loss. In fact, it is the leading cause of blindness in the 20 to 64 age group, and is one of the most frequent causes of retinal blindness in the world. Diabetic retinopathy is characterized by progressive damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye. These blood vessels can start to leak blood into the eye, become blocked, and in advanced cases, cause the growth of new, delicate blood vessels. Keeping up with routine eye exams and maintaining a healthy blood sugar and blood pressure can help reduce risk of diabetic retinopathy. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the risk of permanent vision loss. A laser eye procedure can be used in some cases to treat the abnormal blood vessels, and sometimes, surgery is required to clear blood from the eye.
- Glaucoma: This eye condition is characterized by high pressure inside the eye, which affects the flow of fluid within the eye. When pressure rises in the eye, damage to the optic nerve can occur, potentially resulting in permanent blindness if not controlled. Family history of glaucoma, high blood pressure and high blood sugar are risk factors for this condition.
In its early stages, glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms; it can only be detected during a routine dilated eye exam. Although the condition itself is incurable, it can be treated with medication or surgery to slow the progression of the disease and prevent further vision loss.
Each of these eye conditions can be detected during a routine comprehensive eye exam. If you have any of the risk factors for these conditions (such as age, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), it is especially important that you receive annual eye exams with your eye doctor.
Is it time for you go have your eyes checked? Contact the vision specialists at Key-Whitman Eye Center today.