Common Eye Conditions
SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE HEALTH OF YOUR EYES
There are some rarer circumstances where cataracts develop earlier in life, but usually they are a perfectly normal part of the aging process. The lens inside your eye absorbs harmful UV light rays throughout your life, protecting the eye and gradually turning the lens from crystal clear to milky white. This causes vision to be generally hazy and can cause problems with glare in bright light. The cataract will also often cause a change in prescription that we can correct.
Although we can update to new prescriptions, new glasses don't lessen the cataract itself - eventually the solution is, when the cataract is developed enough to significantly affect your vision, a very routine operation to replace the lens.
There are many different types and causes of glaucoma, but all involve an imbalance in pressures in the eye (this is unrelated to problems with blood pressure). It's more common as we get older and there's a strong family connection. It can cause damage to the tissues at the back of the eye, resulting in gradually-worsening vision with, in worse cases, gradually-increasing blind spots that eventually cause tunnel vision.
The end results of advanced glaucoma can be serious, but in the majority of cases, treatment is very straightforward and effective - usually with drops to control the pressure in the eye. Strange as it may sound, the visual symptoms of glaucoma will very often go completely unnoticed by the sufferer until it's too late, because of its gradual progression. Therefore, the key to glaucoma is spotting early signs of the disease through regular routine eye examinations, so that it can be treated quickly and more easily.
The macula is the central area of the back of the eye, used for fine detail vision such as reading or recognising faces. Macular degeneration is a disruption in this tissue that can cause noticeable visual loss - it can happen at any age, but is much more common as we get older. As well as a decrease in quality of vision, it can cause distortion to shapes and straight lines, making them appear wavy or broken. If these sorts of symptoms appear, the eyes should be checked by an optician urgently.
There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is the more common and is caused by deposits at the back of the eye. It progresses slowly, and will affect the vision over a longer time. There isn't currently a cure or treatment for the dry variety. Wet macular degeneration acts far more swiftly in seriously reducing vision and is much more noticeable. There are treatments available to tackle wet macular degeneration, and they are far more effective in saving vision if administered quickly. This is one reason why it's important to have the symptoms above checked quickly if they should appear.
Diabetes affects the small blood vessels around the body, including those in the eyes. Consistently high sugar levels can start to affect these retinal blood vessels, causing them to become blocked, bulge, or leak. All of these effects can interrupt the blood supply to the back of the eye and worsen vision. In worse cases, new weakened blood vessels are stimulated to grow across the retina, causing leakages and scar tissue. Vision will be particularly affected if damage occurs in the macula, in the form of diabetic maculopathy.
Damage from diabetic effects can be very serious - the best way to prevent it is through proper control of the underlying diabetes. Maintaining proper sugar levels, as advised by your GP, will help minimise the risk of diabetic retinopathy developing.
Sticky, or gritty, uncomfortable eyes or - believe it or not - very watery eyes can all be symptoms of dry eye. This happens when something is causing a disruption to the proper production and flow of tears in the eyes. It can have many different specific causes, but tends to become more common with age.
Sometimes the issue is that some of the parts that make up tears aren't being produced properly in the eye; sometimes it's that the eye isn't draining tears properly. Depending on the exact cause, there may be very simple treatments available that make the eyes a lot more comfortable.