Common Eye Diseases
Macular degeneration is a major cause of visual disability among older people. The macula is the small area of the retina which is responsible for fine or distinct vision. Degeneration of the macula usually results in gradual loss of central vision and is caused by damage to the blood vessels supplying the retina (the rear lining of the eye where visual images are formed).
While there is no effective treatment for most macular degeneration, peripheral or side vision is usually maintained. Many people with macular degeneration can continue all their usual activities with the assistance of low-vision aids such as magnifying glasses, etc.
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious disease of the eye’s retina and often affects the fluid in the eye (vitreous) as well. It is the leading cause of blindness for people 55 years of age and younger. A disease of the retina’s blood vessels, diabetic retinopathy usually affects those who have had diabetes for many years.
Controlling blood sugar levels and blood pressure can help combat diabetic retinopathy. Early diagnosis increases the chances of controlling this disease, so it is important that an ophthalmologist be consulted regularly. The most current method of treatment involves the use of a laser in which the affected blood vessels are sealed or “welded” shut.
In retinitis pigmentosa (RP), the retina begins to degenerate. Often one of the earliest symptoms of RP is difficulty seeing at night or in dimly lit places (night blindness). Later there is a very gradual loss of side (peripheral) vision, sometimes resulting in “tunnel vision.” RP generally worsens over a period of years.There is no known treatment for retinitis pigmentosa at this time.
If we live long enough, most of us will develop cataracts. A cataract is an opacity, or clouding, of the eye’s lens, which blocks the passage of light needed for vision. Its underlying cause has not yet been determined.
As a cataract develops, it may be noticeable as “spots,” ghost images, the impression of “skim” over the eyes, or trouble with lights. It may be noticeable to others as a milky spot in the normally black pupil of the eye. This condition can be treated by a relatively common outpatient surgical procedure.
Glaucoma is an eye disease associated with too much fluid pressure within the eye. The vitreous, which should be continuously formed and drained, gets backed up along the outflow route. The resulting increased pressure destroys intricate, sensitive structures of the eye’s retina.
Glaucoma accounts for one out of every seven cases of blindness. Early diagnosis is essential. If medical treatment is prompt, the progress of glaucoma can be stopped. However, sight already destroyed by glaucoma cannot be restored.
This can occur when a hole or tear in the retina allows the inner retina layer to separate from the back layer, or wall of the retina. Vitreous then cab enter through the break, seep between the layers, and further pressure the inner layer to peel, or detach. Though some retinal breaks occur as the result of injury, most often the break is associated with retinal degeneration accompanying aging.
Symptoms of retinal detachment include seeing a shower of black spots or light flashes, or experiencing a curtain-like blotting out of vision. Early treatment makes possible, in 85 percent of cases, re-attachment of the retina and restored vision. Treatment techniques include direct surgical repair or other bonding methods using laser surgery.