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.
A cataract is a cloudy area in the normally clear lens in the front of the eye. Cataracts aren’t painful, but they do cause symptoms, including:
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.
For people who are significantly affected by cataracts, cataract surgery is the preferred method of treatment. Cataract extraction and lens insertion 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. Newer options are available to assist with cataract surgery, such as the use of a femtosecond laser to prepare the eye for surgery.
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 without glasses. A femtosecond laser creates 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.
The entire procedure takes only 5 minutes per eye, and patients are often ready to leave within an hour or two. The flap heals on its own within a few days.
Surface Ablation is laser correction without the use of a flap in the cornea. This can be advantageous when the cornea is too thin for LASIK. The results are equivalent to LASIK, but postoperative healing can take longer than LASIK.
There are other options to correct vision. Options are dependent on the refractive aim, your lifestyle, and your age. If you have a very high stable prescription or high astigmatism and are less than 45, than phakic implantable collamer lenses may be used. These are lenses implanted into the eye. For patients older than this, refractive lens exchange may be considered if appropriate.
Keratoconus is a progressive cornea thinning disorder that usually presents in the second decade of life, but sometimes later. Methods to improve vision include spectacles, contact lenses and surgical options. Importantly there is a procedure called collagen cross linking that is designed to halt progression of keratoconus, preventing the need for cornea transplantation. Other surgical options include intrastromal ring segments, phakic implantable collamer lenses and partial or full thickness cornea transplantation.
A pterygium is a growth of conjunctiva onto the clear cornea. This is usually progressive, but sometime static. Pterygia can incur irritation, inflammation, redness, induced astigmatism, and if severe enough can obscure vision. It is appropriate to intervene surgically if any of these issues occur. A recent development in pterygium surgery is the use of tissue glue, making the procedure and the post-operative recovery much more comfortable for patients.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. 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 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, or who have a family history of glaucoma.
Macular degeneration occurs when the center of the retina degrades, causing a progressive loss of vision. Symptoms include:
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.
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.
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.