Patients should see their doctor for a comprehensive eye exam every one to three years, depending on their age, risk of disease and overall physical condition. Children should have regular tests to ensure the proper development of their vision and prevent any interference with their academic achievements. Older adults are often at a higher risk for eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. Even if your eyes are healthy, you should still have a regular eye exam to detect any problems as soon as possible and begin necessary treatment.
Dry eye occurs when the eyes aren't sufficiently moisturized, leading to itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. The eyes may become dry and irritated because the tear ducts don't produce enough tears, or because the tears themselves have a chemical imbalance.
People usually begin experiencing dry eye symptoms as they age, but the condition can also result from certain medications, conditions or injuries.
Non-surgical treatments for dry eye include blinking exercises, increasing humidity at home or work, and use of artificial tears or moisturizing ointment. If these methods fail, small punctal plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or the drainage tubes in the eyes may be surgically closed. Eyelid surgery is also a solution if an eyelid condition is causing your dry eyes.
Diabetic Eye Diseases
Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing eye conditions because a high blood sugar level can damage blood vessels in the eye. Over 40 percent of patients diagnosed with diabetes develop some form of eye disease as a result. These conditions can cause blood or fluid to leak from the retina or new blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina which can lead to significant damages to your vision and overall quality of life.
It is important for patients with diabetes to have dilated eye exams once a year to detect any signs of diabetic eye disease as soon as possible. You can also minimize your risk of developing diabetic eye disease by keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure under control, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and is a leading cause of blindness in adults. Diabetic retinopathy develops as a result of changes in blood sugar levels or simply the presence of long-term diabetes. Most patients don't develop this condition until they have had diabetes for at least 10 years. If high blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the retina to leak blood or fluid, the retina may become swollen and form deposits.
Early stages of diabetic retinopathy do not usually require treatment, just that patients monitor their blood sugar level to prevent the disease from progressing. If the disease does progress, treatment may be necessary to preserve your vision.
The macula is a part of the retina in the back of the eye that ensures that our central vision is clear and sharp. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the arteries that nourish the retina harden. Deprived of nutrients, the retinal tissues begin to weaken and die, causing vision loss. Patients may experience anything from a blurry, gray or distorted area to a blind spot in the center of vision.
AMD is the number-one cause of vision loss in the U.S. Macular degeneration doesn't cause total blindness because it doesn't affect the peripheral vision. Possible risk factors include genetics, age, diet, smoking and sunlight exposure. Regular eye exams are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.
There are two kinds of AMD: wet (neovascular/exudative) and dry (non-neovascular). About 10-15% of people with AMD have the wet form. "Neovascular" means "new vessels." Accordingly, wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels grow into the retina as the eye attempts to compensate for the blocked arteries. These new vessels are very fragile, and often leak blood and fluid between the layers of the retina. Not only does this leakage distort vision, but when the blood dries, scar tissue forms on the retina as well. This creates a dark spot in the patient's vision.
Dry AMD is much more common than wet AMD. Patients with this type of macular degeneration do not experience new vessel growth. Instead, symptoms include thinning of the retina, loss of retinal pigment and the formation of small, round particles inside the retina called drusen. Vision loss with dry AMD is slower and often less severe than with wet AMD.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye's optic nerve. Glaucoma happens when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. This extra fluid creates an increase in the pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve. When glaucoma develops, patients often report no symptoms, so annual eye exams are vital to rule out the presence of glaucoma in the eye.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It is estimated that over 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of them know it. Possible risk factors include genetics and family history, high eye pressure, farsightedness or nearsightedness, history of eye injury, thin corneas, diabetes, or circulation issues. Glaucoma is a disease that usually progresses slowly, and vision loss or blindness can usually be prevented with early detection and treatment.
The most common form of glaucoma is known as primary open-angle glaucoma. This occurs when the part of the eye called the trabecular meshwork becomes less efficient at draining fluid. When this drain does not function properly, the eye pressure, called intraocular pressure (IOP), rises. Heightened eye pressure can damage the optic nerve. There is not a "right" eye pressure that is the same for all patients. Each patient's eye doctor will determine a target eye pressure that will protect the patient's optic nerve from further damage. Each patient has a different target eye pressure. Left untreated, open-angle glaucoma slowly damages the optic nerve and blank spots begin to appear in the field of vision. Patients may not notice these blind spots until the optic nerve is significantly damaged.
Another form of glaucoma is called angle-closure or narrow angle glaucoma. This happens when the drain in the front of the eye becomes blocked. A blockage in this drain causes eye pressure to rise quickly. Patients experiencing complete angle closure will experience acute pain, sudden blurriness, headache, and nausea, and should be treated by an ophthalmologist immediately. Patients who are at risk for closed-angle glaucoma should avoid medications where the packaging states not to use these products if you have glaucoma. These products may be safe to use if your eye doctor has treated you with a laser procedure called a peripheral iridotomy.
Sometimes our doctors label a patient a glaucoma suspect. They may do this because a patient has normal eye pressure but their optic nerve or visual field test looks suspicious for glaucoma. These patients must be watched carefully because they may be more likely to eventually develop glaucoma and need treatment. Other patients may have higher than normal eye pressure but no optic nerve damage. This is called ocular hypertension and must also be watched carefully because they are at higher risk for developing glaucoma.
To learn more about our General Ophthalmology Services or to make an appointment, please call the office nearest you.