A Close Look at Eye Disease
Millions of Americans have undetected vision problems that may lead to worsening vision. Are you at risk? Eyes are our body's most highly developed sensory organ. A larger part of the brain is dedicated to the function of vision than to hearing, taste, touch or smell.
We tend to take our eyesight for granted. But a staggering number of Americans (tens of millions) have uncorrected eye and vision problems that may lead to worsening eyesight and, possibly, vision loss. Because it often has no symptoms, eye disease can go undetected for years. Regular eye exams are the first step in detecting eye disease and ensuring healthy vision. The most common problems are described below:
Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., affects approximately 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older. This includes an estimated 1.5 to 2 million people who do not even know they have glaucoma. Glaucoma is caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye as a result of too much fluid being produced or not enough fluid being drained. This increase in pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause vision to fade.
Glaucoma most often occurs in people over the age of 40 and the risk increases with age.
If you're African-American, have a family history of glaucoma, are nearsighted or diabetic, you are at higher risk of developing the disease.
The most common type of glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly, often without symptoms.
- Symptoms: Gradual loss of peripheral vision (side vision); blurred vision (rare)
- Treatment: Glaucoma can be treated with medication (usually given in eye drops), surgery or in some cases both. These treatments work by helping to drain excess fluid from the eye and/or decreasing the amount of fluid the eye produces.
While glaucoma is not preventable or curable, it can be slowed. The earlier glaucoma is detected, the less damage it can cause and the longer you will have your vision.
A cataract is a clouding of all or part of the normally clear lens within your eye. More than 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40 are affected with this disease. This clouding results in blurred or distorted vision. Cataracts are usually found in people over the age of 55, but occasionally younger people can get them.
- Symptoms: Cloudy or blurry vision;
Colors that seem faded; Poor night vision;
Double or multiple vision (this symptom often goes away as the cataract grows); Frequent changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- Treatment: If your vision is only slightly blurry and isn't interfering with your lifestyle and the things you enjoy doing, you may wish to delay or avoid surgery. You and Dr. Collins can make that decision together. When cataracts are small, you can often improve you vision by using different eyeglasses, magnifying lenses, or stronger lighting. If the condition does not improve, surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a substitute lens is the only effective treatment.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which currently afflicts 1.6 Million Americans, results from changes to the macula (a portion of the retina at the back of the eye), which is responsible for clear, sharp vision. It is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over the age of fifty-five. Those with AMD experience blurred vision and the inability to clearly see images in front of them.
- Symptoms: A gradual loss of the ability to see objects clearly;
A gradual loss of color vision;
Dark or empty areas appearing in the center of vision
- Treatment: Successful laser surgery may prevent central vision loss from becoming worse, even though normal vision may not be restored. Another option is prescribed low vision devices such as telescopic and microscopic lenses that make the most out of remaining vision. The most successful treatment so far has been nutritional therapy.
Millions are affected by Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), but you don't have to suffer any longer! DES has many causes, the most common include:
- The Aging Process - Tear flow normally decreases with age. In fact, approximately 75% of individuals over the age of 65 suffer from DES symptoms.
- Contact Lens Wear - Contact lens wear can dramatically increase tear evaporation, causing discomfort, infection, and/or increase protein deposits. Research shows that DES is the leading cause of contact lens intolerance.
- Hormonal Changes in Women - Various hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, oral contraceptives and menopause can contribute to DES.
- Environmental Factors - People who are exposed to smoke, air pollution, high altitude, sunny, windy, cold or dry air conditions are at risk for DES.
- Side Effects of Disease/Medications - There are several diseases and medications which can lower your ability to produce tears. Be sure to give your complete medical history.
- Computer Use- Increased dryness occurs due to lack of blinking.
- Symptoms: Red eyes, burning, itching, foreign body sensation, sandy or gritty feeling, light sensitivity, watery eyes, occasional tearing, constant tearing, pain or soreness in or around eyes, tired eyes, contact lens discomfort, seasonal allergies, dry throat or mouth, arthritis/joint pain.
If you experience these symptoms, you may be suffering from DES. Left untreated, your symptoms will most likely intensify, making your daily life unpleasant, or worse, deteriorate your visual acuity.
- Treatments: Depending on the intensity of the condition, treatment may be as simple as a procedure that provides long-term relief of DES through the use of tiny plugs called punctal occluders. Proper hydration, lid cleansing and lid massage can often help in alleviating dry eye symptons.
Focus on Comprehensive Eye Exams
Only a few of the most common eye diseases have been mentioned. Early detection through regular comprehensive eye exams can help find eye disease early.
Check yearly to see clearly!