Many of us have heard the terms cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and dry eyes. But dare we say most of us keep them on the periphery (pun intended) of our lives until we have to deal with them either directly or indirectly?!
Dr. Diane Todd of Nauset Optical breaks them all down for us - what they mean, who they affect and how to prevent and treat them.
Cataracts can interfere with the ability of light to focus on the back of the eye. As a result, images appeared blurred, colors are less vivid and night driving becomes more problematic.
Who it affects:
This is a normal aging process that happens in almost everyone over the age of 50.
Patients will often come into the office with complaints of if blurry vision, thinking that they simply need an adjustment to the eye glass prescription.
Although cataracts are a part of the natural aging process within the eye, efforts can be made to slow the progression. UV light is a major contributing factor to cataract development especially in those who live in warmer climates along the equator or spend slot of time on the water. Sunglasses with UV protection can help decrease the amount of damaging light rays that enter the eye and create cataract changes.
Should a cataract develop to the point that is has an impact on the patient’s ability to see clearly, a rather simple procedure can be performed where the cataract lens is removed in an out patient setting and a clear plastic lens replacement is put in its place correcting the vision.
Glaucoma is a general term for various eye conditions that lead to increased pressures in the eye resulting in damage to the optic nerve and causing peripheral vision loss. Like a car tire where there is an ideal pressure under which the car will drive optimally, there is an ideal eye pressure where the eye will be most healthy. Instead of air, within the eye is this jelly like material called the vitreous. It is this jelly that helps the eye maintain it shape, much like air prevents a tire from being deflated. Glaucoma occurs when there is too much vitreous within the eye causing pressure within the eye, much like putting too much air in a basketball.
Who it affects:
Glaucoma tends to run in families, and is second leading cause of blindness in all Americans.
In general, glaucoma has no symptoms.
Although there is no way to prevent one from getting certain glaucoma conditions, by having routine eye examinations, glaucoma can be easily detected and treated. It is a super simple test that uses a blue light that comes close to the eye to determine the eye pressure.
The first mode of glaucoma treatment is with medical eye drops that help to lower the vitreous pressure within the eye and prevent the associated loss of peripheral vision.
AGE RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
The macula is the neurological part of the eye that is responsible for central vision. Age-related macular degeneration is an age related eye disease that occurs in the eye at the macula. There are two forms of AMD: DRY AMD and WET AMD. Dry AMD is the early stages of macular change that produces minimal visual effects. One can have Dry AMD without any long term visual impact. However, Dry AMD can sometimes progress to Wet AMD.
Who it affects:
AMD affects people in their later years of life.
Visual distortions, reduced central vision in one or both eyes, the need for brighter light when reading or doing close work, increased difficulty adapting to low light levels, such as when entering a dimly lit restaurant, increased blurriness of printed words, and difficulty recognizing faces
Macular degeneration can be hereditary or the product of lifestyle. While genetics are a major factor, other causes such as UV light, smoking and some systematic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes can contribute to the development of macular degeneration.
A regular dilated eye examination is important in diagnosing and properly managing age-related Macular Degeneration. If your condition is diagnosed early, you can take steps to help slow its progression, such as taking vitamin supplements, eating healthfully and not smoking.
DRY EYE SYNDROME
This is a condition in which there is decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation of the eye.
Who it affects:
Dry Eye Syndrome is the most common eye disease, affecting over 6% of the population.
Typical symptoms include burning, tearing, itching, sandy, gritty eyes. These symptoms can range from occasionally bothersome to creating causing impact on vision clarity, ocular comfort and contact lens wearability.
Although dry eyes happens as people age, eating a diet that is high in vitamin A or in omega-3 fatty acids can help with the condition.
Depending on the degree of dry eye symptoms, initially an over the counter eye drop is used to lubricant and protect the eye. These OTC ocular lubricants are recommended to be used 1-2 times a day. There are also prescription eye drops that can be used for the more severe cases of dry eye syndrome. Although dry eye cannot be cured, the use of eye drops can help with the symptoms and comfort of the patient.
The most important takeaway is to get regular and thorough eye exams with your friendly local Optometrist!
Doctor Diane P. Todd received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Boston College in 1993 and her Doctorate of Optometry from the New England College of Optometry in Boston, MA in 1997. She completed internships at Barnet-Dulaney-Perkins Eye Center in Phoenix, AZ; Bravermann Eye Center in Hallandale, FL and South Boston Health Center.
Dr. Todd is experienced in the treatment and management of ocular diseases, co-managemnet of cataract surgery and glaucoma treatment. She is licensed to treat ocular infections and eye injuries with certification in Ocular Pharmacology.