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Tag Archives: eye diseases

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Cataracts

Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. When we look at something, light rays travel into our eye through the pupil and are focused through the lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. The lens must be clear in order to focus light properly onto the retina. If the lens has become cloudy, this is called a cataract.

cataract

Vision problems with cataracts

If your vision has become blurry, cloudy or dim, or things you see are not as bright or colorful as they used to be, a cataract may have developed in one or both of your eyes. Many people say that their vision with cataracts is similar to the effect of looking through a dirty car windshield.

As a cataract slowly begins to develop, you may not notice any changes in your vision at first.  But as the cataract progresses, you may begin to find that it interferes with your daily activities.  Performing a complete eye exam, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) can tell you whether cataract or another problem is the cause of your vision loss.

While cataracts are one of the most common causes of vision loss, especially as we age, they are treatable with cataract surgerySince most cataracts are part of the normal aging process, they cannot be reversed.  There are no medications or eye drops that will make cataracts go away—surgery is the only treatment.

A cataract may not need to be removed right away if your lifestyle isn’t significantly affected.  In some cases, simply changing your eyeglass prescription may help to improve your vision. Contrary to popular belief, a cataract does not have to be “ripe” to be removed. However, once you are diagnosed with a cataract, your ophthalmologist needs to monitor your vision regularly for any changes. 

Cataract surgery for clearer vision

When a cataract causes bothersome vision problems that interfere with your daily activities, your ophthalmologist may recommend surgery to remove the cataract. With cataract surgery, your eye’s cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens implant (called an intraocular lens or IOL).

You and your ophthalmologist can discuss the cataract surgery procedure, preparation for and recovery after surgerybenefits and possible complications of cataract surgery, cataract surgery costs and other important information.  Together, you can decide if cataract surgery is appropriate for you.

Cataract symptom progression

Gradually, as cataracts progress, you may have symptoms such as:

  • Painless cloudy, blurry or dim vision
  • More difficulty seeing at night or in low light
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Faded or yellowed colors
  • The need for brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Double vision within one eye

See a simulation of what vision with cataract looks like.

The only way to know for certain if you have cataracts is to have a dilated eye exam (where your pupil is widened with eye drops). Your ophthalmologist can detect early signs of cataract development by looking at your eye’s lens.

Get a baseline exam at age 40 when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur. Your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.)  will let you know how often you should return for follow-up exams. At any point, if you have symptoms or risks for eye disease, see your Eye M.D. Because your risk for cataracts and other eye diseases increases as you get older, starting at age 65 you should see your Eye M.D. every year. A complete eye examination will rule out any other condition that may be causing blurred vision or eye problems. Early detection and treatment of cataracts is critical to preserving sight.

 

 

Culled from: geteyesmart: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/cataracts/index.cfm

Image: AAPOS.org: http://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/31

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration or breakdown of the eye’s macula. The macula is a small area in the retina — the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The macula is the part of the retina that is responsible for your central vision, allowing you to see fine details clearly.

macula

The macula makes up only a small part of the retina, yet it is much more sensitive to detail than the rest of the retina (called the peripheral retina). The macula is what allows you to thread a needle, read small print, and read street signs. The peripheral retina gives you side (or peripheral) vision. If someone is standing off to one side of your vision, your peripheral retina helps you know that person is there by allowing you to see their general shape.  

Many older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body’s natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration.

SYMPTOMS

With macular degeneration, you may have symptoms such as blurriness, dark areas or distortion in your central vision, and perhaps permanent loss of your central vision. It usually does not affect your side, or peripheral vision. For example, with advanced macular degeneration, you could see the outline of a clock, yet may not be able to see the hands of the clock to tell what time it is.

CAUSES

Causes of macular degeneration include the formation of deposits called drusen under the retina, and in some cases, the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. With or without treatment, macular degeneration alone almost never causes total blindness. People with more advanced cases of macular degeneration continue to have useful vision using their side, or peripheral vision. In many cases, macular degeneration’s impact on your vision can be minimal.

TYPES

There are two types of macular degeneration:

1. Dry, or atrophic, macular degeneration (also called non-neovascular macular degeneration) with drusen

Most people who have macular degeneration have the dry form. This condition is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Macular degeneration usually begins when tiny yellow or white pieces of fatty protein called drusen form under the retina. Eventually, the macula may become thinner and stop working properly.

With dry macular degeneration, vision loss is usually gradual. People who develop dry macular degeneration must carefully and constantly monitor their central vision. If you notice any changes in your vision, you should tell your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) right away, as the dry form can change into the more damaging form of macular degeneration called wet (exudative) macular degeneration. While there is no medication or treatment for dry macular degeneration, some people may benefit from a vitamin therapy regimen for dry macular degeneration.

2. Wet, or exudative, macular degeneration (also called neovascular macular degeneration)

About 10 percent of people who have macular degeneration have the wet form, but it can cause more damage to your central or detail vision than the dry form.

Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow underneath the retina. This blood vessel growth is called choroidal neovascularization (CNV) because these vessels grow from the layer under the retina called the choroid. These new blood vessels may leak fluid or blood, blurring or distorting central vision. Vision loss from this form of macular degeneration may be faster and more noticeable than that from dry macular degeneration.

The longer these abnormal vessels leak or grow, the more risk you have of losing more of your detailed vision. Also, if abnormal blood vessel growth happens in one eye, there is a risk that it will occur in the other eye. The earlier that wet macular degeneration is diagnosed and treated, the better chance you have of preserving some or much of your central vision. That is why it is so important that you and your ophthalmologist monitor your vision in each eye carefully.

Culled from EyeSmart: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration/index.cfm

Image: visivite.com