My eyes don’t hurt and my vision is clear. Why should I have an eye exam?
Regular eye exams are an invaluable tool in maintaining your eyes’ health by detecting and preventing disease. Some diseases, such as glaucoma, develop gradually without causing pain or vision loss – so you may not notice anything wrong until significant and irreversible damage has been done. Early detection of any problems can allow for a choice of treatment options or prevent further harm.
What is glaucoma? Am I at risk?
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It occurs when the pressure inside the eye rises high enough to damage the optic nerve. Symptoms include blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, halo effects around lights and painful or reddened eyes. Testing by an ophthalmologist or optometrist can detect glaucoma before symptoms appear and begin treatment to prevent vision loss.
People at greatest risk for developing glaucoma include those who are over 40, diabetic, near-sighted, African-American, or who have a family history of glaucoma.
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What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration occurs when the macula, or central area of the retina, degrades causing a progressive loss of vision. Symptoms may include:
- A gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
- Distorted vision
- A dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision
There are two kinds of macular degeneration: “wet” and “dry”. The “wet” form can be treated in its early stages. Regular eye exams are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.
What is a cataract? Who is at risk for developing them?
A cataract is diagnosed when your natural lens, which is clear at birth and helps to focus light on the retina, becomes cloudy. There is usually no pain associated with this condition, and symptoms may include:
- Blurred/hazy vision
- Increased Glare
- Sensitivity to glare
- A feeling of “film” over the eye(s)
People at risk for developing cataracts include those who are over 55, have had eye injuries or disease, have a family history of cataracts, smoke cigarettes or use certain medications.
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How are cataracts treated?
Vision loss from cataracts can often be improved with prescription glasses and contact lenses. For people who are significantly affected by cataracts, replacement surgery may be the preferred method of treatment. Cataract replacement is the most common surgical procedure in the country. During this procedure, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one called an intraocular lens or IOL.
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What is diabetic retinopathy and how is it treated?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that weakens the blood vessels that nourish the retina. Vision can be lost if these weak vessels leak, swell or develop thin branches. In its advanced stages, diabetic retinopathy can cause blurred or cloudy vision, floaters and blind spots – and, eventually, blindness. This damage is irreversible. However, treatment can slow disease progression and prevent further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser and surgical procedures.
Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
Yes. People with diabetes are most susceptible to developing it, but your risk is reduced if you follow your prescribed diet and medications, exercise regularly, control your blood pressure, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Regular eye exams are an integral part of making sure your eyes remain healthy.
What are the symptoms of dry eye and how is it treated?
“Dry eye” is very common. The three main categories of dry eye include decreased tear production, increased tear loss or evaporation, and irregular tear film composition. Dry eyes have varied causes, and comprehensive ophthalmic examination can often diagnose the underlying problem and offer effective treatment.
Dry eyes may develop as part of the natural aging process with changes in hormone levels and tear production. It can also form in relation to mechanical eyelid or blinking problems, certain medications such as antihistamines and oral contraceptives, environmental climate changes (low humidity, wind, dust), injury, ocular inflammation, and various systemic health conditions.
- Irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes
- A burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes
- Blurred vision
In addition to being uncomfortable, dry eyes can damage the ocular surface, scar the cornea and impair vision. Dry eye is treatable and it can often be controlled before serious harm is done to your eyes.
Treatment can take many forms based on the underlying cause. It may include lifestyle, environment, diet and medication changes and well as various tear replacement and supplementation modalities. Often small temporary plugs may be inserted into the tear ducts in the corners of the eyelids to limit tear drainage. In eyes with severe dry eye related ocular surface disease, surgery may be required.
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How does LASIK work?
LASIK changes the way light is bent, or refracted, as it passes through the cornea so that it focuses properly on the retina and objects can be seen clearly. A device called a microkeratome cuts a thin flap in the surface of the cornea. An excimer laser beam then reshapes the cornea’s curvature to improve vision. The flap is then closed and covered with a protective contact lens.
How long does the procedure take, and how long is recovery?
The entire procedure takes only 10-20 minutes per eye, and patients are often ready to leave shortly after their surgery. The procedure itself is painless with the flap healing on its own within several days. Eye drops are taken for a short time after the surgery to control inflammation, prevent infection, and provide comfort.