Early Detection of Eye Disease Can Save Your Sight
Our eyes are amazingly resilient. However, there are a number of diseases that can deteriorate your sight permanently. Diagnosing these conditions early can make the difference between seeing well later in life and losing your vision altogether.
To safeguard your eyesight, make an appointment for an eye exam at Advanced Vision Care now.
Early Glaucoma Detection is Paramount
Also called the “silent thief of sight”, glaucoma is an eye disease that is caused by the deterioration of the optic nerve tissue. In the early stages it affects your peripheral vision over time, completely imperceptible to you. As it progresses, it can cause thinning of the nerve layers, which is permanent. If it is left untreated, it can eventually cause total and irreversible blindness. The good news is that our doctors can detect early signs of glaucoma at your annual exam and order simple tests to stay ahead of the disease process and begin treatment if needed, to slow the disease progression.
Glaucoma is most common in the older population, but there are some factors that contribute to a higher risk of developing the disease:
- Steroid use
- Eye trauma or injury
- High blood pressure
Glaucoma is usually characterized by high intraocular pressure (IOP). The pressure in your eyes must be regulated so it does not get too high. If the IOP is too high for your eye, the pressure can damage the retinal nerve fibers in the back of your eye, leading to vision loss. These are the three most common types of Glaucoma:
Open Angle Glaucoma: This is the most common type. In this form, the IOP rises over time, slowly damaging the optic nerve and causing vision loss from the periphery inward. It is caused by a decrease in drainage of the fluid inside the eye compared to the amount produced.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma: In this version, the angle between the iris and cornea is too narrow for the fluid to drain and the pressure can spike very suddenly. It can be accompanied by vomiting, intense headache, eye pain, and blurry vision, and is a medical emergency. If you experience these symptoms, go to the nearest emergency facility.
Normal Tension Glaucoma: In this case, the intraocular pressure is within normal range and the eye’s drainage system functions normally. However, the optic nerve still becomes damaged over time.
It is often possible to slow or halt the progression of glaucoma through the use of eye drops, laser treatments, and surgeries. However, once vision is lost, it is not reversible. Early detection is the only way to prevent vision loss.
When the lens inside our eyes ages, it can start to become cloudy and dark. Exposure to the sun and certain medications can speed up the formation of cataracts, but mostly it is a natural process that occurs over many years and is quite common over the age of 60. In fact, most eyes over the age of 65 have some evidence of cataract formation. The result is dim, blurry vision with faded colors. Your doctor will let you know if there are signs of cataracts forming in your eyes, and how they are affecting your vision.
Cataracts form naturally over our lifetime, but other risk factors include:
- Eye injuries
- UV exposure
Healthy nutrition and using sunglasses to protect us from the sun’s UV rays can help slow the formation of cataracts, but may not prevent them altogether. Early on, your doctor may change your prescription, and recommend bigger fonts and better lighting to help you live with cataracts. Over time, surgery may be necessary.
Lens replacement surgery is generally a common, safe and successful procedure. Your natural lens is broken up using ultrasound waves and removed from your eye. A synthetic lens is then placed into your eye, restoring your eyesight completely. In most cases the surgery reduces the strength of your prescription, though you still may need glasses to see your best.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
This is a disease of the part of the retina responsible for our central vision, but may not be noticeable early on. Over time it can cause visual distortion, blank spots and even blindness, but it is difficult to predict how aggressive the disease will be. At AVC we have sensitive instruments that can detect changes in the macula that are associated with the AMD process.
There are no treatments to recover vision that is lost to AMD but studies have shown that family history, smoking, a poor diet and exposure to the sun’s UV radiation are risk factors for the disease. Smoking cessation, nutrient supplements, and maintaining a healthy diet can reduce your risk associated with age-related macular degeneration. Your doctor will let you know if your eyes may benefit from an eye vitamin or other lifestyle changes
Dry AMD: This is the majority of AMD cases. Fatty proteins called drusen build up in the retina at the back of the eye. These deposits cause a gradual worsening of the vision over time. There is no way to reverse this change and it is possible for it to change to the wet type.
Wet AMD: This form is uncommon but happens extremely quickly and is devastating to vision. Blood vessels in the retina become damaged. The body attempts to create new vessels, but they are fragile and begin to leak, leading to macular scarring and vision loss. Treatment for wet AMD includes injections to try to heal the leaky blood vessels.
Maintaining a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, avoiding smoking, and protecting your eyes from the sun, is your best bet for reducing your chances of developing AMD. Eye vitamins to improve the health of the macular cells are available. Your doctor will let you know if you would benefit from an eye supplement containing:
- Lutein and zeaxanthin
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Diabetes and Your Eyes
For our patients with diabetes, it becomes paramount to monitor the health of your eyes. Diabetics are at risk for damage to the eye from diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema are more prone to conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Maintaining desirable blood sugar levels is the most important part of reducing your risk of these ocular complications. Let your doctor know if you have diabetes at your next appointment.
Your Diabetic Eye Exam
For patients with diabetes, borderline diabetes, we have created an eye exam just for you. We begin with standard preliminary tests to check your overall eyesight, including eye alignment, peripheral vision, and ocular health. After these initial tests, we begin examining your eyes for diabetes. We look at the structure of your eye, including the retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels using our state-of-the-art Optos digital imaging to get a thorough picture of your retinas.
This way, we can better determine if you are at risk for any of the diseases associated with diabetes. If there are any early signs, your doctor can begin building a plan to best manage or prevent the progression of these conditions.
Monitoring Your Eyes For Diabetic Eye Disease
Having uncontrolled blood sugar or diabetes increases the risk of developing glaucoma by 40%, cataracts by 60%, and age-related macular degeneration. Chronically uncontrolled blood sugar can result in severe diabetic retinopathy and macular edema, which are conditions that can be devastating to your sight.
There are few symptoms in the mild form of this condition, but you may have noticeable blind spots or blurry vision caused by leakage of blood vessels that causes distorted vision and retinal scarring. If detected early enough, there are treatments that can prevent further vision loss. Having good control of your blood sugar is the best way to prevent the progression of this disease. Annual dilated eye exams are the best way to avoid losing your sight to diabetic retinopathy.
If diabetic retinopathy continues uncontrolled, the tiny blood vessels under the retina are damaged and leak into the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for your central vision. If left untreated this can lead to permanent and drastic vision loss and even blindness. Current treatments of injections have had some success, but it is best to be monitored yearly with a diabetic eye exam at Advanced Vision Care.