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.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. 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 by an ophthalmologist or optometrist 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, African-American, 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.
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.
Vision loss from cataracts can often be improved with prescription glasses and contact lenses. For people who are significantly affected by cataracts, replacement surgery may be the preferred method of treatment. Cataract replacement 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.
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.
Age-related macular degeneration (www.amd.org): Basic information and frequently asked questions about age-related macular degeneration. Features include monthly newsletters regarding updates and research on AMD.
American Academy of Ophthalmology (www.aao.org)
Foundation Fighting Blindness (www.blindness.org): This online resource provides information on retinal degenerative diseases, including causes, current treatments and research and support services.
Glaucoma Foundation (www.glaucomafoundation.org): This site is devoted specifically to the causes and treatments of glaucoma, and it provides the latest updates on glaucoma and glaucoma research with free newsletters and support group information.
Macular Degeneration Foundation (www.eyesight.org): This website provides information regarding age-related macular degeneration and low vision. The online resource includes information regarding adult and juvenile macular degeneration, frequently asked questions, reports and research on macular degeneration, news updates and a free newsletter.
National Eye Institute (www.nei.nih.gov): The NEI website includes patient information library, photographs and illustrations, low-vision information, news and events, clinical studies and current research.