Medical Eye Disease
A quick look at some of the most common medical eye diseases that are diagnosed and often treated at Eyecare Associates.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens, which leads to a progressive blurring or dimming of vision. Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness, and are among the most common conditions related to aging.
A cataract starts out small and initially has little or no effect on your vision. As the cataract progresses, it becomes harder to read and perform other normal tasks. In the early stages, your doctor may recommend stronger eyeglasses. They will also suggest improving your lighting, or adjusting light to reduce glare.
When cataracts disrupt your daily life, your doctor may recommend cataract removal surgery, which is one of the most frequent and successful procedures done in the U.S.
Often called “the silent thief of sight,” glaucoma is an increase in the intraocular pressure of the eyes, which causes damage to the optic nerve. There are no signs or symptoms in the early stages of the disease. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to a decrease in peripheral vision, and eventually blindness.
While there is no cure, glaucoma medications and surgery is available to help halt further vision loss. Early detection and regular eye exams are vital to slowing the progress of the disease.
Macular degeneration is a chronic, progressive disease that gradually destroys sharp central vision. The disease is caused by a deterioration of the macula, a tiny spot in the central portion of your retina comprised of millions of light-sensing cells.
Since the disease is commonly associated with aging, it is also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). There are two forms of AMD:
- Dry AMD is the most common, and has no known treatment,
- Wet AMD is less common and is treated with laser procedures and injections. Genetic testing is now available to help identify those most likely to develop wet macular degeneration.
In most cases, reversing the damage caused by AMD is not possible. However, supplements, protection from sunlight, eating a balanced diet, and quitting smoking can help reduce the risk and progression of macular degeneration. For suggestions, speak with your eye care provider.
Retinal detachment is an emergency. Tissue at the back of the eye pulls away from a layer of blood vessels that provide necessary oxygen and nourishment. Symptoms include the appearance of many bits of debris (floaters), sudden flashes of light, or a shadow in the field of vision.
Prompt medical treatment can often save vision in the eye. Call our office immediately if you experience these symptoms.
The middle of the eye is filled with a gel called the vitreous, which is normally attached to the retina in the back of the eye. A posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is when the vitreous pulls away from the retina.
Symptoms include flashes of light in peripheral or side vision, floaters moving around in your field of vision, or in rare cases, decreased vision or a dark curtain or shadow moving across your field of vision.
For most people, a PVD is a harmless event. For a small amount of people, the vitreous may pull too hard from the back of the eye, taking a piece of the underlying retina with it. This is called a retinal tear. It can lead to a retinal detachment, which can cause permanent loss of vision.
People with diabetes can develop an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. This is when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels may swell and leak, or they can close, stopping blood from passing through. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels grow on the retina. All of these conditions can decrease your vision.
Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic eye disease. If you have diabetes, it’s important that you don’t wait for symptoms to appear before having a comprehensive eye exam. Early detection and treatment of diabetic eye disease will dramatically reduce your chances of sustaining permanent vision loss.
An eye turn, medically known as strabismus, refers to a condition in which the eyes are misaligned. It commonly occurs when the muscles that control eye movement are not properly working together. The result is one or both eyes turning inward, outward, upward or downward, or one or both eyes moving irregularly.
Strabismus is usually diagnosed during childhood and affects about 4% of children, afflicting boys and girls equally. Though it cannot be prevented, its complications can be avoided with early intervention. Even if you notice symptoms intermittently—when your child is ill, stressed, or fatigued—alert your eye care provider as soon as possible.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva—the thin, protective membrane that covers the surface of the eyeball and inner surface of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergens, and other irritants like smoke and dust. When bacterial or viral in nature, pink eye can be highly contagious and is usually accompanied by redness in the white of the eye and increased tearing and/or discharge.
While many minor cases improve within two weeks, some can develop into serious corneal inflammation and threaten your sight. If you suspect conjunctivitis, contact us for an examination and possible treatment.
Dry eye syndrome refers to a breakdown in the quantity or quality of tears to moisten, cleanse, and protect the eyes. This is significant because, with each blink, tears protect the surface of the eye, washing away dust and microorganisms. When this protective coating dries up, the eyes may feel “gritty” or burn and can be more sensitive to light. In extreme cases, vision can be blurred. Proper care will not only increase your comfort, it will protect your eyes.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a blockage or abnormality of the meibomian glands which inhibits the secretion of oil into the tears. This causes the tears to evaporate too quickly, making MGD a leading cause of dry eye syndrome. It also is associated with an eyelid problem called blepharitis. Your eye doctor can tell if you have meibomian gland dysfunction and determine the best MGD treatment options for your particular needs.
The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped window at the front of the eyeball which focuses light into your eye. In keratoconus, the cornea becomes thin and bulges like a cone. This change to the cornea causes vision to become blurry and distorted, making daily tasks like reading or driving difficult.
Keratoconus can be treated with specialty hard contact lenses and scleral lenses. Surgical treatment options include collagen cross-linking, Intacs, and corneal transplant.