Our eyes are just as likely to be affected by diseases like any other part of our body. Unfortunately, while many of these diseases are more common in older patients, they can affect anyone of any age meaning even young patients can be at risk. Many eye diseases have no early symptoms and changes in vision, many patients only notice symptoms when the disease becomes significantly advanced. In many cases, this makes treatment a little more difficult.
One of the best ways to protect the health of your eyes and your long term vision is to attend your comprehensive eye exams at the frequency recommended by your eye doctor. This is because a key element of the eye exam is to assess the health and condition of your eyes and check for the early development of any ocular diseases. In fact, the majority of patients who regularly visit their eye doctor will have ocular diseases and conditions detected early as a result of their comprehensive eye exams. This early detection enables prompt treatment, which is usually easier, less expensive and can take place before the disease has a severe impact on your health.
While there are many different ocular diseases, some are more common than others. Here are some of the eye diseases that are most often detected at regular eye exams.
Diabetic retinopathy is the name of a particular eye disease that affects patients who suffer from diabetes. It occurs as a result of damage to the blood vessels located at the very back of the eye on the retina. The retina is a patch of light-sensitive cells that is integral to our vision. This is because it's the retina that receives the light that is transmitted through our eyes. The retina plays the role in converting it into signals which are sent up the optic nerve to our brain. This is what tells us what we can see. It usually takes several years for diabetic retinopathy to reach a stage where your eyesight could be threatened, but persistent damage could occur.
When patients have uncontrolled diabetes, the persistently high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in a number of ways. First, it will cause them to bulge, then bleed into the retina and finally, scar tissue can develop. Getting your diabetes under control is essential to prevent further damage. However, all patients who have diabetes will be given screening as a part of their routine eye exam.
Macular degeneration is a chronic, progressive condition that primarily affects older patients. It is caused by the natural degeneration of the cells in the center of the retina, an area that is known as the macula. The macula is responsible for central vision and the sharpness with which we can see. Although macular degeneration nearly always develops slowly (although there is a type which is rare but causes damage quickly), eventually it can have a significant impact on your vision, quality of life, and can in severe cases it can lead to irreversible blindness.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that is characterized by either a gradual or sudden increase in pressure within the eye, known as intraocular pressure. When this happens, it causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve, severely affecting a patient's vision. The vast majority of cases develop slowly and can be detected early on and prevented using medication to control and reduce the pressure. Intraocular pressure testing is a standard part of most comprehensive eye exams to stop or reduce the progression of glaucoma.
Cataracts are one of the most well-known of all ocular diseases. They typically affect older adults and occur when the proteins in the natural lens of the eye change and clump together, causing clouded patches to appear. It isn’t painful and while it usually affects both eyes, cataracts may develop at different rates. The vision that is lost as a result of cataracts is irreversible. Glasses, better lighting, and other solutions may help temporarily. Eventually, patients will require a lens replacement procedure where the cloudy lens is replaced with an artificial alternative in order to see clearly.
This extremely common ocular infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva will affect most people at least once during their lifetime. It can be caused by many things, including bacteria, viruses, allergens, and other irritants. It's also highly contagious meaning that if you develop it, you will need to take special care not to pass it to other members of your family or freinds. Fortunately, it is usually treated fairly easily using topical solutions.
For more information on types of ocular diseases, or to schedule a consultation, please contact our experienced and knowledgeable team in Rocky River, OH.