Common Eye Diseases
Diabetic Retinopathy and Other Eye Complications
Patients with Diabetes have a higher risk for blindness, although few diabetic patients actually go blind. Instead, many develop eye disorders related to diabetes known as diabetic retinopathy. These patients are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy which involves the leakage of blood vessels in the retina. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, nearly one in four people with type one diabetes develops diabetic retinopathy, and approximately 14 percent of those with type two diabetes suffers from the condition.
People who have suffered from diabetes for a long period of time are the most likely to develop eye disorders, although family history, blood pressure levels, and blood sugar levels also play a contributing role.
The easiest ways to prevent diabetic retinopathy, or to at least ensure the symptoms are mild, is to have annual eye exams, manage blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible, and to also take steps to lower blood pressure to healthy levels.
Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy
Early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is key to managing the symptoms. That is why it is important to continue to visit an optometrist for a routine eye exam every year, regardless of whether blurred or disrupted vision is present. If an eye problem is detected in its earliest stages, progression may be slowed by taking steps to better manage diabetes and blood pressure.
Cataracts and Glaucoma
Although cataracts and glaucoma can affect anyone, the conditions are more common among diabetic individuals. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetic individuals are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts than individuals who do not suffer from diabetes.
These diseases can progress and slowly cause partial or total vision loss. Treatment for cataracts is limited to surgical intervention only. Advanced glaucoma may also require surgery, but medicated eye drops are used to treat the earliest stages of the disease.
The Importance of Regular Eye Examinations
Regular professional eye examinations are important to overall health, regardless of whether a patient has been diagnosed with diabetes or is experiencing vision problems. Through a comprehensive eye exam, our optometrists are able to detect early diabetes which can prevent irreversible damage. Please contact our optometry office to schedule your annual diabetes exam.
A cataract is a clouding of lens inside the eye. When a cataract develops, it begins to obscure the light filtered through the lens, preventing the lens from focusing properly causing vision loss. Cataracts are classified as one of three types:
This cataract forms in the back of the lens and is most commonly found in people with diabetes, intense farsightedness, and those taking high steroid doses.
Nuclear cataracts are most commonly associated with the natural ageing process and form in the nucleus, the centre of the lens. This type of cataract development can be seen over time.
Cortical cataracts form in the lens cortex and gradually extend from the outside of the lens to the centre. Diabetics are often at risk of developing cortical cataracts.
Initial cataract treatment includes the use of glasses, bifocals magnification or other visual aids. If cataracts develop enough to visually impair you and negatively affect your daily life, consider cataract surgery to improve your vision. During cataract surgery, your surgeon will remove the clouded lens and replace it with a clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL). Most cataract surgeries have a high success rate, resulting in dramatically improved vision.
If you suspect you have a cataract and you live in or around Kitchener feel free to contact our office to schedule an eye exam with one of our optometrists today. We will gladly answer any of your questions and provide you with the best treatment options available to you.
Glaucoma is a category of eye disorders linked to high internal eye pressure. The buildup in eye pressure can damage the eye’s optic nerve disrupting the transmission of visual information to the brain. Early stages of untreated glaucoma includes a loss of your peripheral vision and progressed eye damage which could eventually lead to blindness.
Most cases of glaucoma are not typically associated with pain and also produce no noticeable symptoms until vision loss occurs. Because of this, many cases go unnoticed until irreversible optical nerve damage has occurred along with a range of permanent vision loss.
Routine eye exams include an evaluation for glaucoma. Our doctors will perform several tests to establish whether or not you have Glaucoma. In severe cases, this condition may require surgery, or the use of lasers and/or medication depending on the progression. Usually, eye drops are initially prescribed if pressure lowering is required.
Race, medical history, eye history, or overall health can all increase your risks of glaucoma. At your annual eye exam, our optometrists will perform all the necessary tests to determine whether you have any signs of glaucoma. Please contact our optometry office to schedule your annual eye exam.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, affects millions of North Americans – most of whom are age 65 or older. AMD attacks the macula in the eye, causing partial vision loss, blurring and blind spots. AMD is usually diagnosed after a thorough dilated eye exam from an optometrist, although intermediate and advanced AMD may produce certain identifiable symptoms. Macular degeneration is either classified as dry or wet.
Dry Macular Degeneration
This is the most common type of macular degeneration, affecting nearly nine out of every ten people diagnosed with AMD. All cases of AMD start out dry – most of which remain that way. Patients with non-neovascular macular degeneration will not know the condition exists in its earliest stages without regular visits to an optometrist because symptoms usually do not present until the disease progresses. If dry AMD is not diagnosed and treated early, it can quickly cause blurred central vision known as a geographic atrophy.
Neovascular (Wet) Macular Degeneration
Wet AMD is much less common than dry AMD, but it does affect about 10 percent of AMD sufferers. This advanced AMD condition occurs when the body produces new, abnormal blood vessels near the macula. These blood vessels are usually unstable and can leak blood and fluid that causes the macula to swell. Wet AMD is considered more serious than dry AMD – primarily because it can lead to greater vision loss than dry AMD. Wet AMD usually starts with a loss of central vision, although many wet AMD patients report seeing wavy lines in place of straight ones.
Although age, family history and race play a role in whether a person will develop AMD, there are ways of minimizing risk. According to the National Eye Institute, eating a diet rich in leafy green vegetables and fish may help lower the chances of developing age-related macular degeneration. Furthermore, smoking can double the chances of developing AMD, so tobacco products should be avoided if possible. It is also recommended that those at risk for developing AMD exercise regularly and try to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Although there are no FDA-approved treatments available for dry AMD, the National Eye Institute recommends high quantities of beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E supplements. Studies have shown that these vitamins may help slow the progression of the disease. Disease progression may also be slowed by avoiding exposure to UV light and by wearing sunglasses.
For individuals who suffer from wet AMD, there are some effective treatment options. One of the most commonly used wet AMD treatments is photodynamic therapy, which uses light to activate a drug designed to destroy abnormal blood vessels in the eye. Some patients also undergo monthly injections of vascular endothelial growth factor designed to block the growth of new blood vessels in the eye. Laser surgery is also an option for removing abnormal blood vessels.
If you are suffering from age-related macular degeneration or suspect you may have the condition, contact us for an appointment. We can examine your eye and help you explore your options for managing or treating the disease.
Hypertension and heart disease are a North American epidemic and linked to multiple health conditions. Long term hypertension can inflict significant damage to the circulatory system and many of the body’s organs. Like other blood vessels in the body, the tiny blood vessels in the eye are easily affected by high blood pressure. Years of hypertension can damage the smooth walls of the blood vessels, causing arteriosclerosis. The result is often blurred vision, distortion and even total vision loss.
Types of Hypertension-Related Eye Diseases
Retinopathy – this is a condition that affects the blood vessels that bring blood into the eye. Damaged blood vessels may leak fluid or blood into the eye, which usually results in blurring and possible recurrent headaches.
- Optic Neuropathy – In some cases, hypertension can completely block blood flow to areas of the eye, causing optic nerve damage. Symptoms may include vision loss or bleeding in the eye.
- Choroidopathy – This condition occurs when high blood pressure causes one or more blood vessels under the retina to leak, which leads to a build-up of fluid. Symptoms include vision impairments and possible scarring of the tissues in the eye.
Prevention and Management
The easiest way to prevent or manage hypertension-related eye problems is by managing hypertension. Generally, hypertensive eye disorders require the oversight of both a cardiovascular physician and an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The benefits of managing hypertension extend beyond the eyes, as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol can also lower the chances of stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, kidney disease and heart failure.
In order to lower blood pressure and stop the progression of heart disease, it is important to eat a nutritious diet low in saturated fats, sugar and processed foods. Exercise should also be a part of an active lifestyle, and blood pressure medications may help manage the disease as well. Studies have also shown a link between smoking and hypertensive retinopathy, so avoiding tobacco products may help prevent the condition as well.
Regular eye exams can be one of the most effective tools for detecting the earliest stages of heart disease and hypertension. Recent advancements in digital retinal imaging make it possible for optometrists to have a completely unobstructed view into the blood vessels of the eye. Any changes to the blood vessels can signal signs of hypertension long before they become evident through the onset of other, possibly more severe symptoms. Contact our optometry office to book your eye exam.