The most important information we can provide regarding developing eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and vision loss due to diabetes and high blood pressure is that a presenting symptom of all of these can be blurred vision. And all, with the exception of a specific type of glaucoma, are painless.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens within the eye. The typical age-related cataract is due to exposure to UV light over time. While most cataracts develop slowly in people over age 50, they can occur in infants and young children. As cataracts progress they will interfere with normal vision, eventually requiring surgery to improve vision.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the United States. The decision to have cataract surgery should be based on quality of life and expectations. Prior to being referred for surgical consultation, it’s important to understand the risks and benefits of cataract surgery. The main risks associated with cataract surgery include inflammation and swelling, although infection, retinal detachment and blindness can occur. While the main benefit of cataract surgery is improving eyesight, dependency on spectacles and contact lenses can be reduced by implanting an intraocular lens. Intraocular lenses can correct myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and provide for near focus. It’s important to discuss your visual expectations following cataract surgery with us prior to your surgical consult.
Symptoms of cataracts may include:
Gradual, painless reduction in vision
Reduced intensity of colors
Increased sensitivity to glare from lights
Difficulty seeing at night
View through a cataract
Conjunctivitis, often referred to as “pink eye,” is inflammation of the conjunctiva. Typically due to an allergen or infection caused by a virus or bacteria, conjunctivitis may affect one eye or both. Examining the eye with a microscope is critical in determining the cause. Oftentimes antibiotics are prescribed when not indicated, increasing the risk of resistance to antibiotics over time. Contact our office if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Swelling of the eyes and/or eyelids
If you wear contact lenses it is very important that you are seen by our professionals, diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness in adults. Loss of vision occurs through bleeding in the retina, reducing the amount of oxygen available to the light-sensitive cells in the retina. Patients with diabetes or at risk of developing diabetes should have a comprehensive eye examination annually.
View with diabetic retinopathy
The tear film is necessary for clear vision and the overall health of the ocular surface. Under normal circumstances, each blink provides a fresh film of tears and a refractive surface while washing away debris. The tear film is composed of three layers: the outer lipid layer, middle aqueous, and inner mucous layer.
Any deficiency in the tear composition can lead to symptoms of dry eye.
Gritty, foreign-body sensation
Treatment of dry eye syndrome or ocular surface disease depends on the cause and severity and can include lid hygiene, artificial tears, medications, and insertion of punctal plugs to delay tear draining. Symptoms continue to play a significant role in how and when to treat DES but at times treatment needs to be initiated prior to experiencing symptoms.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction can be a cause of dry eye symptoms and significantly impacts the quality of the tear film, leading to tears that evaporate quickly.
Meibomian glands are located within the upper and lower eyelids and are responsible for the outer lipid layer of the tear film. In MGD these glands become obstructed and begin to atrophy. Once glands have been lost they can not be replaced.
Treating Meibomian Gland Disease/Dysfunction can be challenging due to the chronic nature of MGD. Lipiflow® is FDA-approved to remove the obstructive nature of MGD by providing direct, controlled heat and pressure to the eyelids. This 12-minute procedure warms the eyelids to melt the dead cells and solid-state lipids within the glands and then removes the obstructions through applied pressure. Learn more about Lipiflow® here.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness, resulting in peripheral vision loss. In most cases, the loss of vision is painless. Risk factors for developing glaucoma include:
Elevated pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure)
Thin optic nerves
Race--Aftrican ancestry increases risk
The most common type of glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly, without symptoms. Additional symptoms of certain types of glaucoma can include blurred vision, pain, halos around lights, redness and nausea.
The treatment for glaucoma is based on lowering the pressure within the eye to prevent or limit damage to the optic nerve. Diagnosed and treated early, glaucoma can be controlled. Vision lost due to glaucoma cannot be restored.
View with progressive glaucoma
Macular Degeneration is associated with aging of the central retina and impacts central vision responsible for seeing detail. There are two forms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD); dry and wet. Dry AMD is more common, while wet AMD is responsible for more significant vision loss. There is currently no treatment for dry AMD, although a multivitamin is recommended for those with moderate dry AMD. This vitamin is based on the ARED (Age-Related Eye Disease) studies conducted by the National Eye Institute. The treatment for wet AMD includes pharmaceuticals placed into the eye to absorb fluid.
Risk factors for developing AMD include:
Race--Caucasion ancestry increases risk
Gender--females appear to be at greater risk for unknown reasons
Family history can play a role
The development of macular degeneration is painless and can include blurred vision and distortion of straight lines.
View with macular degeneration
Retinal Detachment occurs when the light-sensitive retina separates from its supply of oxygen. Retinal detachments are an eye emergency that requires surgery. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you should contact our office immediately.
Symptoms of retinal detachment include:
A curtain covering the field of vision
Although retinal detachments can occur at any age, specific risk factors include:
High myopia, or nearsightedness
Age over 40
History of injury to the eye
History of retinal detachment in the fellow eye
Retinal detachments are painless and the loss of vision can be permanent if not diagnosed and treated appropriately.
As primary eye care providers, we are at the front line of eyecare. At times, surgical treatment is required for vision threatening conditions such as cataracts, retinal detachment, severe diabetic retinopathy, and wet macular degeneration, among others. At other times elective procedures such as LASIK or eyelid lifts are desired. Our team of providers are part of a network of surgeons that provide additional care to treat specific conditions. Dependent on diagnosis and treatment, patients are referred to the appropriate surgeon and often managed post-operatively in our office to increase efficiency and reduce time.