The eye is an organ of vision and light perception. Looking after your eyes, detecting conditions and maintaining eye health is important. Learn below about some of the most common eye conditions.
Some eye conditions are hereditary, some are the result of damage due to accidents or prolonged UV exposure, and some are brought on by disease or infection.
Astigmatism is a focussing error which causes asymmetric blur. Some directions in an image are more out of focus than others. This can be contrasted with shortsightedness (myopia) where all directions are uniformly blurred.
What does it look like?
If you have a page with a grid on it, tilt the top of the page downward away from you while looking at the lines. The lines oriented away from you are more distinct that those running across the page. This is what the grid normally look like to a person with moderate astigmatism.
What causes astigmatism?
The shape of the front surface of the eye (the cornea) causes most astigmatism. Slight tilting of the lens inside the eye can also cause it. It may be an inherited characteristic or a normal variation accompanying growth.
Can you describe the shape?
A magnifying glass focuses the sun to a point image because its two surfaces are spherical, each like the surface of a basketball. Now imagine a transparent surface like that of a football. It has two different curvatures. These result in light focusing at two different locations. The image does not focus to a point and so is blurred.
How does astigmatism affect me?
Objects at all distances are indistinct or blurred and the eye cannot focus. Even slight degrees may encourage headaches, fatigue and reduce concentration. This is because the eyes may try, without success, to correct the blur, and because there is a tendency to screw up the eyes to see better, producing discomfort in the muscles of the eyelid and face.
How is astigmatism corrected?
Spectacles and contact lenses (hard and soft) can correct astigmatism. Sometimes correction of astigmatism can cause changes in the apparent size and shape of objects and may affect judgement of distance. A patient may feel taller or shorter, or walls may appear to slope and floors curve.
In most cases, adjustment to these side effects takes only a week or so. Astigmatism correction may involve a compromise between optimal clarity and visual discomfort.
How is astigmatism detected?
Some people notice blur themselves. Only a proper eye examination will determine for certain if you have astigmatism.
Astigmatism is not an eye disease and any changes are generally gradual and not necessarily for the worse. Most people have at least a very slight astigmatism.
Cataract is when the crystalline lens in your eye begins to develop a cloudiness that stops light from passing from the outside world to the retina at the back of the eye.
Is Cataract a growth?
No. Cataract is not a growth, it is a change in the crystalline lens material.
What causes cataract?
Cataract can be caused by many things:
Toxic materials and radiation.
Occasionally we are born with cataract.
Can cataracts get worse?
Yes, cataracts generally do become worse over time. As cataracts progress eyesight generally becomes worse as well. Cataracts can become worse over months or years.
Can cataract affect both eyes?
Cataract usually develops in both eyes but not at the same rate in both eyes.
How common are cataracts?
People older than 60 years of age often have some signs of cataracts though this can vary greatly.
Can cataract cause Blindness?
Cataract is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. Blindness can be prevented if the cataract is detected and surgically removed and replaced with an intraocular lens.
What will my vision be like after I have had my cataract removed?
The outcome of cataract treatment with modern techniques is usually very good. A clear plastic lens replaces your old cloudy lens to result in improved vision. Spectacles usually have to be worn after cataract treatment.
What are the signs of cataract?
Cataracts usually develop slowly to cause a painless deterioration in eyesight that cannot be effectively treated with spectacles.
How can I be sure I don’t have cataracts?
Regular eye examinations by your Optometrist are the best way to ensure detection of cataract. Optometrists willl examine your eyes with equipment designed to detect cataract formation long before symptoms occur.
Can I prevent cataracts from forming?
There is no proven method of preventing cataracts. Prolonged exposure to Ultraviolet light is thought to cause cataracts. Good eye protection consisting of sungalsses and a hat should be worn to protect the eyes.
When should I have my cataracts operated on?
This depends on many factors such as lifestyle and visual demands. The Optometrists at Watton Street Optical will discuss this with you and explain any questions you may have.
Is cataract removal a major operation?
No, Cataract removal is no longer a major operation. The procedure is performed under a local anaesthetic and generally no overnight hospital stay is required. The eye surgeon that your Optometrist refers you to will be happy to discuss all details of the procedure with you.
Dry eye occurs when your natural tears are unable to keep your eyes well lubricated and feeling uncomfortable. This is because your eyes do not produce enough tears or the quality of your tears is poor.
What causes dry eye?
Ageing- reduction in production or quality of tears
Hormones- hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause
Health conditions- other health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, sjogrens syndrome
Environment- wind, dry climate, pollution, air conditioning
Computers and TV- reduced blinking and eye strain due to staring at computer or TV screens for an extended period
Medications- prescription medications, especially hormone replacement therapy, anti- histamines and diuretics
Contact lens wear
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Irritation- sore, tired eyes
Grittiness- foreign body sensation
Sensitivity to light
These symptoms may worsen during the day.
How to Relieve Dry Eye
Lubricant eye drops are the main treatment for dry eyes. These eye drops supplement your natural tears and cool, soothe and moisturise dry eyes. Lubricant eye drops are available in:
Multi- Dose Bottles
for use over several days or weeks
contain preservatives to ensure they do not become contaminated with bacteria after opening
Single- Use Vials
are preservative free
suitable for people with sensitive eyes
recommended for occasional use of eye drops
Some gels and ointments may be sticky and blur vision, but may be suitable for moderate to severe dry eye and overnight use.
A. Floaters (or spots as they are sometimes called) are usually clouded or semi – Opaque specs or particles within the eye that are seen in the field of vision.
Q. What causes floaters?
A. The eyes are filled with a fluid which maintains the shape of the eye , supplies it with nutrition and aids in the focussing of light. Often as particles of protein or other natural materials are left floating of suspended in this fluid when the eye is formed before birth. If the particles are large enough or close together enough , they cast shadows which make them visible.
This is particularly true when short sightedness occurs or becomes more severe. In most cases this is normal but floaters can also be caused by certain injuries , eye disease or deterioration of eye fluid or its surrounding structures.
Q. Can they affect people of all ages?
A. Yes. Many people see floaters at one time or another . As one becomes older , changes are more likely to occur in the eyes which cause floaters that can be of a more serious nature or cause the usual floaters to be more noticeable.
Q. What do floaters look like?
A This varies greatly among individuals. Some are only slightly noticeable , while others may be disturbing when they drift in the field of vision. Often they appear as dust like particles, cobwebs or thread like strands. They also appear as dim or dark areas, or showers of brilliant crystals. Since floaters move as the eye moves , they dart away when the patient tries to look at them.
Q. How are floaters detected?
A. Floaters are often detected during a complete Optometric examination. By looking inside the eye with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope , the Optometrist can often detect floaters before the patient becomes aware of them. If the floaters indicate disease or other problems requiring care , the patient will be referred to the appropriate health care practitioner.
Q. Can Floaters cause blindness?
A. Most floaters are normal and rarely cause blindness . However, since floaters can be indications of more serious problems , patients seeing floaters should have a complete vision examination to determine the cause.
Q. Can floaters be prevented?
A. Since the particles causing floaters are generally a normal development of the formation of the eye they cannot be prevented.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed. In most people this damage is due to an increased pressure inside the eye – a result of blockage of the circulation of aqueous, or its drainage. In other patients the damage may be caused by poor blood supply to the vital optic nerve fibres, a weakness in the structure of the nerve, and/or a problem in the health of nerve fibres themselves.
Over 300,000 Australians have glaucoma. While it is more common as people age, it can occur at any age. As our population becomes older, the proportion of glaucoma patients is increasing.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GLAUCOMA?
Chronic (primary open-angle) glaucoma is the most common type. It has no symptoms until eye sight is lost at a later stage. Damage progresses very slowly and destroys vision gradually, starting with the side vision. One eye covers for the other, and the person remains unaware of any problem until a majority of nerve fibres have been destroyed, and a large part of the vision has been destroyed.
This damage is irreversible. It is progressive and usually relentless. Treatment cannot recover what has been lost. But it can arrest, or at least, slow down the damage process. That is why it is so important to detect the problem as early as possible, to be able to start treatment with as little damage to the vision as possible.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Although anyone can get glaucoma, some people have a higher risk, those with:
family history of glaucoma
short sightedness (myopia)
blood pressure problems
past or present use of cortisone drugs (steroids)
People in these groups should have their first eye check no later that the age of 35. For most people, it is recommended to have an eye check for glaucoma by the age of 40.
HOW IS GLAUCOMA DETECTED?
Regular eye examinations are the best way to detect glaucoma early. A glaucoma test usually includes the following:
optic nerve check with an ophthalmoscope
eye pressure check (tonometry)
visual field assessment if needed , this tests the sensitivity of the side vision, where glaucoma strikes first
CAN GLAUCOMA BE TREATED?
Although there is no cure of glaucoma it can usually be controlled and further loss of sight either prevented or at least slowed down.
Eye drops – These are the most common form of treatment and must be used regularly. In some cases pills are prescribed. The drops can be varied to best suit the patient and the type of glaucoma.
Laser (laser trabeculoplasty) – this is performed when eye drops do not stop deterioration in the field of vision. In many cases eye drops will need to be continued after laser. Laser does not require a hospital stay
Surgery (trabeculectomy) – this is performed usually after eye drops and laser have failed to control the eye pressure. A new channel for the fluid to leave the eye is created.
Treatment can save remaining vision but it does not improve eye sight.
About 700,000 Australians, or four percent of the population, have diabetes. Of these, 98 percent will develop some form of damage to their vision, a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, within 15 years of diagnosis. Optometrists play a fundamental role in diagnosing these conditions in their early stages when they respond best to treatment.
Eye changes in diabetics
Diabetes sometimes causes the focusing ability of the eye to weaken or to fluctuate from day to day. This characteristic often has led to optometrists diagnosing diabetes in their patients. The problem eases when a doctor controls blood sugar levels.
After diabetes has been present for some years, changes may occur at the back of the eye in the retina. Your optometrist uses an instrument called an ophthalmoscope to check for these changes.
These changes are known as diabetic retinopathy. There are two types of this condition: background (sometimes called simple) retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy.
The risk of developing retinopathy increases with the length of time you have been diabetic. The risk is also increased by poor control of blood sugar levels.
· Background retinopathy
This condition rarely causes any vision to be lost and therefore does not require treatment. Occasionally a swelling of the retina may cause hazy vision or straight lines to appear bent. Your optometrist may instruct you in a simple procedure to carry out at home so that you can test your eyes for this condition. If vision is affected in this way your optometrist can confirm its cause and will refer you for appropriate treatment.
· Proliferative retinopathy
This condition is more serious and requires early treatment to prevent serious vision loss. Your optometrist can recognize signs that this condition might develop or detect it in its early stages. Once proliferative retinopathy has been diagnosed, your optometrist will refer you to an eye surgeon for further appraisal and probable laser treatment. Treatment of this condition has a better chance of success if it is applied very early.
Managing diabetic retinopathy
There is little known about prevention of any of these complications, so the best management is to have regular eye examinations so that changes can be detected and treated early.
It is advisable for all diabetics to have yearly eye examinations. People who have been diagnosed as having retinopathy should have eye examinations more frequently than once a year.
Diabetes and other vision conditions
· Double vision
This is a distressing but rare complication of diabetes. The condition is usually temporary, although it often lasts for a few months. An optometrist can help treat it while it has effect. Diabetes is not the only cause of double vision.
The eye disease glaucoma is slightly more common in diabetics than in non-diabetics. Glaucoma is a condition in which the nerve cells, which transmit information from the eye to the brain, become damaged, often caused by pressure due to a build-up of fluid in the eye. If untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness.
Cataracts are more likely to occur in diabetic people at an earlier age than in non-diabetics. A cataract is a cloudiness that can form in the lens inside the eye. If present, glaucoma and cataract are easily detected at your regular eye examination when your optometrist will advise the best management strategy for the condition.
You and your optometrist
Your optometrist is trained to provide you with the best vision care and advice. Optometrists can help overcome any vision problems caused by diabetes and provide further information about diabetic management.
Regular visits to an optometrist are essential because any complication needs to be detected early to ensure effective treatment or referral to a medical practitioner.
Diabetics often have a history of diabetes in their family. Be sure to tell your optometrist if this is the case in your family.
At the back of the eye is the retina which is the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The central part of the retina is known as the macula and is the part that processes the visual image.
MD causes damage to the macula and then you lose your central vision. It doesn’t affect the peripheral vision.
How common is MD?
MD is a significant eye disease that causes severe vision loss and blindness. One in seven people over the age of 50 years is affected in some way.
What are the types of MD?
There are 2 types- Dry form and Wet form. Dry form causes gradual vision loss. Wet form causes sudden loss of vision and is due to abnormal blood vessels growing into the retina. If symptoms present then immediate medical treatment is required.
What are the risk factors?
MD is thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors. People over the age of 50 years are at risk. If you smoke or have a family history of MD, then there is a higher risk of developing this disease.
Early detection is important
The earlier that this disease is detected the better, as there is currently no cure so treatments aim to keep the best vision for as long as possible.
In the early stages MD may go unnoticed but it can be detected in an eye test so regular check ups are important.
What can you do to keep your eyes healthy?
Regular eyechecks, don’t smoke, healthy balanced lifestyle of exercise and diet, adequate eye protection from sunlight all help your eyes.
In consultation with your doctor, consider a zinc and antioxidant supplement.
Myopia is what most people call shortsightedness. Shortsighted people do not see distant objects clearly. The eye’s lens and cornea normally focuses light into an image on the retina. In a myopic eye the light is focused in front of the retina and so the image is blurred.
Does a shortsighted person see close objects more clearly than a person with normal vision does?
No. Shortsighted people see close objects equally as well or often slightly worse.
How can I tell if I am shortsighted?
Shortsighted people have difficulty in seeing distant objects clearly. They find it hard to read road signs and scoreboards and to play ball games. Recognising people in the distance may be a problem for many shortsighted people. Often a person will not realise that they cannot see clearly but an eye examination by an optometrist will reveal the problem.
How can I tell if my child is shortsighted?
A complete eye test is the only sure way of determining whether your child’s vision is normal. Some clues to myopia in a child are:
screwing up eyes to see distant objects
difficulty reading the blackboard at school
poor posture while reading
lack of interest in playing outdoor games.
What causes myopia?
No one knows for sure. At various times people have blamed excessive amounts of reading, poor metabolism, poor diet, poor light, poor posture and genetic factors. Other people say it is a combination of all these things.
Can myopia be cured?
No, but properly prescribed spectacles or contact lenses will enable the person to see clearly.
Can myopia be prevented?
There is no certain prevention for myopia. However, in some cases, treatment can be prescribed to stop or slow its progression.
How common is myopia?
It is a very common condition. About 15 per cent of the population are shortsighted. Usually myopia begins in teenage years and it may get worse over the following years.
Presbyopia is a common condition that makes focussing difficult at normal reading distance. It usually begins at around 40 years of age and is not a disease.
How does presbyopia affect my vision?
Presbyopia results in difficulty in seeing fine objects such as telephone numbers, newspaper print and fine craft work such as sewing. Symptoms apart from seeing clearly consist of headaches after reading and poor concentration.
What causes presbyopia?
The crystalline lens inside the eye needs to change shape to focus at objects at different distances. With age the crystalline lens becomes harder and is no longer flexible enough to change shape, this is the reason focussing becomes more difficult. This is a completely normal aging change. Eye exercises cannot cure this problem.
Do we all become presbyopic?
Everyone experiences the aging process which causes presbyopia, it cannot be prevented.
Does presbyopia happen suddenly?
Presbyopia is usually first noticed in the early to middle 40’s. The process that causes the symptoms continues throughout life, however we tend to only experience difficulty seeing due to presbyopia from around the age of 45 onwards. The amount of presbyopia increases between the ages of 45 to 65 after which visual changes due to presbyopia stop.
How is presbyopia treated?
Presbyopia is treated by using spectacles or contact lenses.
The options that are available:
Single vision reading spectacles
Monovision contact lenses
Multifocal Contact lenses.
Does Presbyopia mean I will go blind?
No, by having regular eye examinations every 2 years with your Optometrist you will ensure that your vision is always perfectly corrected. However you will need some form of visual correction to see as clearly as you always have.
How often should I change my spectacle prescription?
Usually your spectacle prescription will change every 2 to 3 years between the ages of 45 and 65, sometimes you may notice difficulties sooner and this is a good reason to have your eyes checked.
Will wearing spectacles weaken my eyes?
Definitely not! Presbyopia is caused by changes inside the eye which cannot be altered by wearing spectacles.
A pterygium is a small, usually triangular shaped, yellow in colour, piece of tissue that grows from the white part of the eye onto the cornea. Pterygia quite commonly grow in both eyes though not necessarily at the same rate. It is very important to note that a pterygium is not a cancer.
What causes pterygia?
We are not exactly sure but the available evidence suggests that there is a causal link between exposure to hot dry environments and ultraviolet radiation.
Pterygia are usually more advanced in people that spend a lot of time outdoors such as farmers and surfers.
Are pterygia dangerous?
No, but they can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Pterygia do cause problems if they grow too far onto the cornea where they will interfere with vision.
Pterygia should be regularly checked for their progress, when they grow large enough your Optometrist will refer you for their surgical removal.
How can a pterygium be treated?
When pterygia are small and not growing protecting the eyes from ultraviolet light will help.
If the pterygium is large enough to affect vision surgical removal of the pterygium is required. Surgery is performed under a local anaesthetic. It is best to remove the pterygium before it distorts vision.
Your optometrist will advise you when it is time to have your pterygium removed.
Can Pretygia be prevented?
The best way to reduce the risk of developing pterygia is to protect your eyes from ultraviolet light. UV light causes cataract and skin cancer so protection from UV light is the best form of prevention.
What forms of Ultraviolet Radiation protection are effective?
Try to stay out of the sun between 11.00am and 4.00pm, this is the time UV is at its highest.
Wear a hat, this will protect you from sunburn as well as halving UV to the eyes. Wear sunglasses. Prescription sunglasses are now available in a large range of frames that look the same as all the fashion frames. Many good quality sunless frames can have prescription lenses fitted to them.