Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in America. It results from changes to the macula, a portion of the retina that is responsible for clear, sharp vision, and is located at the back of the eye. Some common symptoms are a gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly, distorted vision, a gradual loss of color vision and a dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision. Recent research indicates certain vitamins and minerals may help prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration. After age 60, an annual, comprehensive eye examination is important to maintain eye health.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. It most often occurs in people over age 40. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans, and those who are very nearsighted or diabetic are at a higher risk of developing the disease. The most common type of glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly, without symptoms. Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. That is why the American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations for people at risk for glaucoma. A comprehensive optometric examination will include a tonometry test to measure the pressure in your eyes; an examination of the inside of your eyes and optic nerves; and a visual field test to check for changes in central and side vision. The treatment for glaucoma includes prescription eye drops and medicines to lower the pressure in your eyes. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be effective in reducing pressure.
Cataract is a cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending on its size and location, it can interfere with normal vision. Most cataracts develop in persons over age 55, but they occasionally occur in infants and young children. Usually people develop cataracts in both eyes, but one eye may have somewhat worse vision than the other. Cataracts generally form very slowly. Symptoms of a cataract may include:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Colors of objects may not appear as bright or it may be more difficult to distinguish between certain colors
- Increased sensitivity to glare from lights, particularly when driving at night
- Seeing multiple images
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Temporary improvement in near vision
While the process by which cataracts form is becoming more clearly understood, there is no clinically established treatment to prevent or slow their progression. In age-related cataracts, changes in vision can be very gradual. Some people may not initially recognize the visual changes. However, as cataracts worsen vision symptoms tend to increase in severity.
Dry Eye means that your eyes do not produce enough tears or that you produce tears that do not have the proper chemical composition. The tears your eyes produce are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision. Often, dry eye is part of the natural aging process. It can also be caused by blinking or eyelid problems, medications like antihistamines, oral contraceptives and antidepressants, a dry climate, wind and dust, general health problems like arthritis or Sjogren's syndrome and chemical or thermal burns to your eyes. If you have dry eye, your symptoms may include irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes, a burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes and blurred vision. Excessive dry eyes may damage eye tissue, scar your cornea (the front covering of your eyes) and impair vision and make contact lens wear difficult.
Diabetic Retinopathy can weaken and cause changes in the small blood vessels that nourish your eye's retina, the delicate, light sensitive lining of the back of the eye. These blood vessels may begin to leak, swell or develop brush-like branches. The early stages of diabetic retinopathy may cause blurred vision, or they may produce no visual symptoms at all. As the disease progresses, you may notice a cloudiness of vision, blind spots or floaters. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, which is one reason why it is important to have your eyes examined regularly by your doctor of optometry. This is especially true if you are a diabetic or if you have a family history of diabetes.
Lazy Eye or Amblyopia
Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is the loss or lack of development of central vision in one eye that is unrelated to any eye health problem and is not correctable with lenses. It can result from a failure to use both eyes together. It usually develops before the age of 6, and it does not affect side vision. Early diagnosis increases the chance for a complete recovery. This is one reason why the American Optometric Association recommends that children have a comprehensive optometric examination by the age of 6 months and again at age 3. Lazy eye will not go away on its own. If not diagnosed until the pre-teen, teen or adult years, treatment takes longer and is often less effective.