Unlike the rest of our body, the eyes rarely hurt when something is wrong. Eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and conditions caused by diabetes and high blood pressure usually present with no visual symptoms in the early stages. Over time, though, they can cause permanent damage to our eyes. Protect yourself and your family by making regular preventative eye exams an important part of your routine health care.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. It is characterized by redness, swelling, styes, cysts, and flaky crusts at the eyelid margins. Symptoms include: scratchy, swollen, tender and irritated eyes. Blepharitis can be caused by various bacteria and can be chronic or acute in presentation. People with skin conditions such as rosacea, acne and eczema are more prone to have blepharitis flare-ups. Poor facial hygiene can also be a contributing factor.
An eye doctor will diagnose the specific type of blepharitis during an eye exam. Treatment options are abundant and include over the counter (OTC) remedies and prescription eye drops and ointments. Occasionally, minor eyelid surgery is necessary to remove cysts when topical treatments are unsuccessful. Blepharitis may require ongoing treatment along with eyelid hygiene to maintain eye comfort and appearance.
A cataract is a clouding of the internal lens of the eye. As the lens becomes cloudier, vision becomes blurry and distorted. Decreased visual clarity, ghosting, and difficulty with glare are common symptoms of a cataract condition.
Risk factors for developing cataracts:
- Eye trauma and surgeries
- Unprotected excessive sunlight exposure
Most people will have a slight cataract in one or both eyes by age 60. Most cataracts progress slowly over 5-15 years. As vision impairment increases, doctors become worried about the safety aspect of day to day activities, such as driving a car. An annual eye exam is recommended to measure eyesight and to evaluate overall eye health. Impressive technologies in cataract procedures allow the surgeon to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a lens implant that is calculated to provide optimum vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is the result of diabetes weakening effects on the blood vessels within the lining of the inner eye, called the retina. Bleeding and the growth of fragile new blood vessels in the retina will destroy eyesight. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the USA. Vision symptoms are usually rare in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy; however, intermittent blur and seeing spots in the vision can be warning signs.
Risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy:
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Smoking for 10+ years
- Being diabetic
Annual eye exams are strongly recommended for all diabetic patients. Eye doctors use various exam methods and instrumentation to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. Many eye doctors now use retinal photography methods to detect retinal blood vessel issues and to monitor progression from one exam to the next. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy may include laser eye surgery to cauterize blood vessels that leak blood into the retina. Early diagnosis is key and treatment can be very successful. Our doctors at EyeDentity Eyecare + Eyewear also believe it is important to communicate with the primary care physician (PCP) of our diabetic patients. After each visit, a letter including, chart notes and any other pertinent documentation will be sent to your primary doctor.
Dry Eye Syndrome, also known as ocular surface disease, keratoconjuncitivitis sicca (KCS) or keratitis sicca; is a multifactorial disease of the tears and the ocular surface that results in discomfort, visual disturbance and tear film instability with potential damage to the ocular surface. Dry Eye Syndrome is typically characterized by symptoms of dry, gritty eyes, stinging, burning, itching and overall discomfort.
For more information about Dry Eyes, please refer to the Dry Eye page of our website.
Glaucoma is a term describing a group of ocular (eye) disorders that result in optic nerve damage, often associated with increased fluid pressure in the eye, a.k.a. intraocular pressure (IOP). The disorders can be roughly divided into two main categories, “open-angle” and “closed-angle” (or “angle closure”) glaucoma. Open-angle chronic glaucoma is painless, tends to develop slowly over time and often has no symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly. It is treated with either prescription eye drops to lower the pressure, or with various pressure-reducing glaucoma surgeries. Closed-angle glaucoma; however, is characterized by sudden eye pain, redness, nausea and vomiting, and other symptoms resulting from a sudden spike in intraocular pressure, and is treated as a medical emergency.
Glaucoma can permanently damage vision in the affected eye(s), first by decreasing peripheral vision, and then potentially leading to blindness if left untreated.
Risk factors for developing glaucoma include:
- Family history
- Ocular hypertension
- African ancestry
- Certain Anatomical Features
An adult eye exam includes an eye pressure measurement called tonometry, as well as an evaluation of the optic nerve. An eye doctor may become suspicious of glaucoma during this exam and order special tests to aid in determining a glaucoma diagnosis.
Macular degeneration is an eye disease, which causes central vision loss usually after the age of 50. The macula is the center portion of the retina and is referred to as the 20/20 eyesight area. When the macula area becomes compromised the vision becomes distorted. There are two types of macular degeneration, dry and wet. Routine comprehensive eye exams are very important and allow the doctor to examine the health of the macula and to measure vision. There are specialized tests that the doctor may perform to accurately diagnose and monitor the condition.
Risk factors for developing macular degeneration:
- Over age 55
- Family history/Genetics
New research has shown that certain vitamins and proper sunglass protection from ultraviolet sunlight exposure may be helpful in reducing the risk of macular degeneration. New treatments for macular degeneration have shown promise in saving, and in some cases, even improving eyesight. Early diagnosis and continued observation by an eye doctor is crucial to protecting eyesight in macular degeneration patients.
The Amsler Grid (for Macular Degeneration)
The Amsler grid was developed by Marc Amsler, a Swiss ophthalmologist, and has been used since 1945. It is a grid of horizontal and vertical lines used to monitor a person’s central visual field. It is a diagnostic tool that aids in the detection of visual disturbances caused by changes in the retina, particularly the macula, such as age-related macular degeneration.
If you are at risk for macular degeneration, you can also use this chart at home to monitor your vision. Regular use of this chart, along with an annual comprehensive eye exam, provides you the best chance at accurate and early detection of macular damage. Early diagnosis means early treatment, and early treatment may help to limit or slow the progression of vision loss.
How to Test Yourself with the Amsler Grid
- If you need reading glasses, please wear them while you use the Amsler grid.
- The grid should be placed at reading distance from your eyes.
- Test your vision with adequate lighting.
- Test only one eye at a time. Cover the other eye.
- Focus on the dot at the center of the chart.
- Do any of the lines look wavy, blurred or distorted? (All lines should be straight, all intersections should form right angles and all the squares should be the same size.)
- Are there any missing areas or dark areas in the grid?
- Can you see all corners and sides of the grid?
It is VERY IMPORTANT to immediately contact your eye doctor to report any irregularities.
You can mark areas of the chart that are not seen properly and bring it to your eye exam.
Examples of abnormal Amsler Grid tests:
Refer to the Patient Resources section of our website for a link to both an online and printable version of the Amsler grid.
RETINAL TEARS AND DETACHMENTS
Retinal tears and detachments are conditions where the inner lining of the eye (the retina) is damaged. A retinal tear describes a small break in this lining whereas a retinal detachment describes a much larger separation of the retina tissues. Aging, eye trauma, eye surgery, or being highly nearsighted may cause retinal tears or detachments.
Symptoms of these retinal conditions include:
- Sudden appearance of floaters
- Sudden flashes of light in the affected eye
- Sudden blurred vision
- A shadow or curtain over a portion of your visual field
It is very important to immediately contact your eye doctor if these symptoms occur. If not treated in a timely manner, vision loss may occur. Various methods of retinal surgery can be performed successfully to preserve eyesight, but timely treatment is required.