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Your Eyes

Ocular Health

 

eye-diagram
Eyes can be affected by many impairments including Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Flashes and Floaters. For trouble free vision it’s important these impairments are diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

A comprehensive eye exam will test for all of these eye conditions and more.

 

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens in your eye. They are usually related to ageing and are a normal finding over the age of 60. When the cataract starts to impair your vision and affect your lifestyle you may need cataract removal surgery. This is usually a safe and effective procedure.

Cataracts can also form secondary to other conditions or events including; chronic uveitis, glaucoma, diabetes, trauma or as a side effect of some long term medications.

The most common symptoms of cataracts are; blurring or dulling of vision, glare sensitivity and a change of spectacle prescription. Some people have no symptoms and are not aware that a cataract is forming.

Wearing sunglasses and a hat to protect from UV sunlight, and not smoking are two ways to help slow the progression of cataracts.

 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disorder where the fluid pressure inside the eye is high, causing progressive damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. The optic nerve is where visual information leaves the eye to talk to the brain, and damage to this causes a loss of your peripheral or side vision – severe loss leads to tunnel vision and even blindness in some cases. The loss is usually gradual, but is permanent.

There are different types of glaucoma. Chronic glaucoma is the most common and this is when the pressure slowly increases over months or years.

Generally there are no symptoms, in-fact there can be quite severe loss before you even realise something is wrong. Acute glaucoma is when a rapid blockage of the drainage system occurs and you get a sudden increase in eye pressure. Acute glaucoma is very painful, the eye will be red, vision blurry and you may get halos around lights. Glaucoma can also occur secondary to injury or inflammation.

Glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled to help prevent further progression and loss of sight. The mainstay of treatment for Glaucoma is eye drops to lower the pressure inside the eye. In some cases surgery is also warranted.

 

Macular Degeneration

Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss among the elderly, and ~25-30% of those over the age of 75 show some signs of ARMD. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for your central, detailed vision – good central vision is required for reading, recognising faces, colour vision and driving.

With age the waste products from the retina can accumulate between the layers of the retina and the underlying tissue, these deposits are called drusen. Over time these drusen can increase in size and number – and are a risk factor for developing ARMD. There are two types of ARMD; Dry and Wet. Most people, ~90%, with ARMD have the dry form. This is a slow degeneration of vision, over a long period of time, and cannot be treated currently. Wet ARMD is less common but has more severe, sudden, vision loss. There is some treatment available for wet ARMD, with varying results and vision improvement.

The most common symptom of ARMD is a blurring of central vision that may be gradual or sudden, and can be worse in one eye.

Vision can also fluctuate dependent on lighting levels. It is a painless vision loss and may not be noticed with both eyes open. ARMD(especially the wet form) can cause straight lines to appear wavy, broken or distorted.

There are several risk factors for developing ARMD; increasing age, family history, UV exposure and smoking. It can occur earlier and faster in those with high cholesterol and vascular disease, and women appear to be at greater risk than men.

A healthy lifestyle and diet can help reduce the risk of developing ARMD. Quitting smoking (if you are a smoker) is a major step. Eating green leafy vegetables, colourful fruits, omega 3/fish oils, nuts, and having a low fat diet all help. Certain people will also benefit from a Macula Supplement – you can discuss this with your Optometrist or GP.

 

Flashes and Floaters

Floaters are small spots or blobs in your vision that you sometimes see when looking at a plain background. They can be all different shapes, from dots to strands to cobwebs, and usually dart away when you try to look straight at them. They are impurities in the clear jelly (vitreous) that fills your eye and they cast a shadow on your retina – which is what you see. They can be annoying but are very common and generally harmless.

Many people aged 40 or over will experience a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). This is when the jelly that fills your eye separates from the retina at the back of the eye. After this occurs a floater called a “Weiss Ring” (although not always ring shaped) may appear. Light flashes in the eye are occasionally seen in dim light and usually there is nothing to worry about. Migraine sufferers can get shimmery lights or zig-zagging patterns in their vision – and it is possible to get the visual symptoms without getting a headache afterwards. Later in life migraine-like symptoms can be experienced by those with vascular disease – a black out of your vision can be a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) which can indicate risk of a stroke and should be investigated by your GP or Optometrist.

Some floaters can indicate a serious eye problem, especially if the onset is sudden. A retinal detachment is one of these. It is a painless event but is a medical emergency and the sooner it is treated the better. Be Alert for “The Four Fʼs” – Flashes, Floaters, a Falling curtain (a shadow encroaching on the vision), and Failing vision.

 

If you are experiencing any new symptoms it is always best to get them checked out by your optometrist.