Do you remember your last eye exam? Or have you never had a problem with your vision and needed to go to the eye doctor? If you can’t remember your last exam or have never had a problem, you may unknowingly be affected by a vision condition. According to the CDC, 11 million Americans over age 12 have some variety of impaired vision that could be improved through “proper refractive correction.” Many vision conditions are also brought about by age, as more than 3.3 million Americans over age 40 are either legally blind or have low vision. Here is an overview of the top three vision conditions affecting patients today:
Macular Degeneration is disease affecting the macula, the center of the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye. It can cause a loss of central vision altogether. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in patients over 50, particularly in Caucasians over any other race. Symptoms can include a gradual loss of the ability to see objects clearly, a distorted shape of an object in the vision, a loss of clear vision of colors, and dark or empty spots in the center of vision.
Being that the disease often goes unnoticed in its early forms, the diagnosis of macular degeneration typically requires a comprehensive eye exam at the noticeable onset of any mild symptoms. If diagnosed with “dry” macular degeneration, the most common form in which the macular tissue thins and stops functioning, vision cannot be restored, and there is no known cure. Recent research does suggest, however, that a change in diet can slow vision loss. The rarer “wet” form, in which fluids blur the vision by leaking from newly formed blood vessels under the macula, can be treated through two methods. The first is a highly focused beam of light sealing the blood vessels. The second, Photodymanic Therapy (PDT), injects medication into the blood vessels that are then catalyzed with a laser shone into the eye. New therapies involving injections are also showing successful results. While there is no cure for this disease, the vision impairment can be markedly deterred.
Cataracts are cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lenses of the eyes. A cataract is also mostly age-related due to changes in the lens, although they may be rarely present at birth or in infancy. Other factors causing cataracts include certain medications such as corticosteroids, injury, glaucoma, diabetes mellitus, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, smoking, alcohol consumption, or nutrition deficiency. There is no overall prevention method, but avoiding exposure to the aforementioned causes can decrease your chances of developing a cataract. It is diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam, although additional tests may be needed to gauge the level of impairment, by which treatment is determined. A minimal level of cataracts may require no treatment at all. At a moderate level, a change in prescription for eyeglasses and regular check-ups can help treat the disease. A severe cataract, however, can require one of two surgeries. The first is a small incision surgery, in which it is treated through phacoemulsification. The second option is an extracapsular surgery, which involves the removal of the lens through a larger incision and its replacement. In order to avoid surgery, a comprehensive eye exam is necessary before symptoms grow too severe.
This condition occurs in persons with diabetes. It can cause you to see spots in your field of vision (“floaters”), blurred vision, dark or empty spots in the center of your vision, or have difficulty seeing well at night. It may be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam along with supplemental tests, such as retinal photography and fluorescein angiography. The early stage, or non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), may not require more treatment than monitoring the disease’s progression. In the more advanced stages, or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), laser treatment, or photocoagulation, may be necessary in order to stop the heavy leakage of blood and fluid into the retina. If the disease impairs the vision too severely, low vision devices may also be prescribed to preserve the remaining ability of sight.
Early detection and prevention are key to taking care of your eyes. Annual eye exams are necessary before a condition becomes severe. If you’ve been blessed with perfect or near-perfect vision, maintaining that sight is just as important as treating vision conditions down the line. See clearly, see wisely, and see an eye doctor once a year!