Eye Health Concerns

Dry Eye

When your eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears produced are not made of the right chemical composition, dry eye can occur. Because tears are necessary for the overall health of your eyes, having dry eye can damage the tissues in your eye, which are normally moist. Scaring of the cornea can also occur as a result.

Causes of dry eye include age, environmental conditions, physical problems with blinking, or medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and oral contraceptives.Other health conditions may affect your tear production as well.Signs and symptoms of dry eye include itchy, scratchy, stinging, burning or otherwise uncomfortable eyes. It may also feel like something foreign is in your eye. Some people may experience dry eye when first waking up, while other may experience watery eyes, which is your body’s way of compensating for dry eye.

Dry eye can be detected by your optician in a series of tests that show your eye in a magnified view and typically use special dyes. This allow the doctor to detect the distribution of tears and signs of dry eyes.

Dry eye cannot be cured but the sensitivity you have to it can be lessened. Artificial tears are the most common treatment for mild cases of dry eye. Gels and ointments can be used for more severe cases, especially before bed. Nutritional supplements and prescription medications may also be used to help soothe the eyes.

For more information about dry eye, visit the American Optometric Association at aoa.org

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. The exact cause remains unknown but what opticians do know is this; the passages in your eye that normally allow fluid to be drained become clogged in some way, or even blocked in some cases, resulting in pressure on the optic nerve. The highly sensitive nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optical nerve are not able to handle the pressure and therefore become damaged, which results in a loss if vision. Additionally, any infection, injury or tumor near the eye can cause this pressure to rise even more.

Glaucoma is most frequently found in people over age 40, however, it can be hereditary in some families. The most common form is primary open-angle glaucoma, which is found more commonly in African-Americans than Caucasians. It can cause damage earlier on in life and more rapidly progresses to blindness. Sometimes the only warning sign will be loss of vision.

Those who are nearsighted or have diabetes are also more susceptible to glaucoma. It is recommended for anyone over 35 to receive regular eye exams to take preventative action toward the health of their eyes. A comprehensive eye exam will include tests to detect glaucoma, check the condition of your optic nerve, and measure your field of vision.

Glaucoma is harmful to your vision because the optic nerve, what sends visual information to your brain, is damaged. Therefore, the amount and quality of that visual information decreases, resulting in a loss of vision.

If glaucoma is detected at an early stage, it can often be controlled so that one’s vision doesn’t decrease any further.Prescription strength eye drops and medicines can be taken and laser surgery may be an option for some as well. However, if it is left untreated, peripheral vision is affected, followed by central vision, and blindness may be the end result.

Even if it is detected early on, the loss of eye sight up to that point cannot be restored – and that is why regular exams are so important. Glaucoma cannot be prevented but early detected can at least reduce the chances of further damage to your eye and vision.

To learn more about glaucoma, visit the American Optometric Association at aoa.org.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a certain type of eye disease that develops when there are changes to the macula, which is a part of the retina. This disease reduces central vision and makes seeing things up close in detail very difficult or impossible. For people over the age of 50, it is the leading cause of vision loss.

The two types of age-related macular degeneration are atrophic (the “dry” type) and exudative (the “wet” type). In the “dry” type, vision loss is gradual because over time the macular thins out and stops functioning properly. There is no cure for this and the central vision that has been lost cannot be restored. The “wet” type is less common and happens when fluids leak under the macula and results in vision loss that is more rapid and more severe. If detected early on, laser eye surgery is an option. It is not a permanent cure but it can slow down the rate of central vision loss.

Signs and symptoms of macular degeneration include not being able to see things clearly, seeing objects in a distorted or crooked manner, not being able to see color as vividly, and dark spots in the center of your vision. Because these signs may not be regularly noticeable in the beginning, regular eye exams are important for early detection. These signs and symptoms may also indicate other issues with the eye, which is yet another reason to visit an eye doctor regularly.

Recent studies have discovered that there may be a link between slowing the development of macular degeneration and the foods you eat. Scientists suggest filling your diet with rich, dark green vegetables like spinach and broccoli as well as reducing your fat intake. There may also be nutritional supplements you should ask your optometrist about.

Because this eye disease does not affect side vision, there are a range of vision aids that can help make the most out of the vision that is left.

For more information on macular degeneration, visit the American Optometric Association at aoa.org.