Eyecare.

Your Eyesight is Important to us...

Eye Health

Eye Health

Please use the navigation below to go to the different topics within Eye Health.

Common Eye Conditions.

Here are some of the most common eye problems and general health problems which can involve the eyes. This is a guide only and if you are concerned you should speak to your GP or book an eye examination with us.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin layer that covers the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. It can affect one or both eyes, causing discomfort and often some blurring.

The cause of conjunctivitis is commonly bacterial, but can also be viral, allergic or from another source. Mild symptoms include discomfort, red eye and some discharge and can usually be treated with antibiotics.

Any pain or severe redness or inflammation should be checked out by an optician immediately. Conjunctivitis can be very contagious, so ensure you wash your hands thoroughly after touching your face and try not to share towels and face-cloths.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a condition caused by the eyes not producing enough tears, or producing tears of a poor quality, leading to a feeling of gritty uncomfortable eyes. Some eyes produce too many tears to compensate and become watery.

Dry eye can be a symptom of underlying health issues, including:

  • The natural aging process, especially during the female menopause.
  • Side effects of using certain medications such as antihistamines and birth control pills.
  • Diseases that affect the ability to make tears, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and collagen vascular diseases.
  • Structural problems with the eyes or a problem with the tear ducts.

Dry eye can usually be treated by artificial tear substitutes; we can advise which would be best for you.

High Blood Pressure

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is often picked up first during a routine eye examination due to a few early symptoms. Hypertension can lead to bleeding in the back of the eye which often causes irreversible damage to the vision. Good control of hypertension by your GP prescribing medication will most often prevent any problems.

Diabetes

Diabetes can lead to a condition called Diabetic Retinopathy, as well as other eye problems. It is an ocular manifestation of systemic disease, which affects up to 80% of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more. Research indicates that at least 90% of new cases could be prevented if proper treatment and monitoring of the eyes is carried out on a regular basis.

Regular eye tests can help to spot the early signs of this condition and enable you to take action to control diabetes before it damages your body and your eyes. It is important to maintain regular health checks as there are often no early warning signs for diabetic conditions. Even macular oedema, which may cause vision loss more rapidly, may not have any warning signs for some time. A person with macular oedema is likely to have blurred vision, making it hard to do things like read or drive. In some cases, vision will get better or worse during the day, often when blood sugar levels are uncontrolled.

Diabetics are entitled to free annual Eye Examinations from the NHS.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the name of a group of diseases characterised by progressive degeneration of the optic nerve head. In some cases this can be caused by a rise in the pressure of the eye. Glaucoma first affects your peripheral vision leading to tunnel vision and if untreated can result in complete visual loss.

As pain is rare and visual loss is very gradual, most sufferers are unaware. The symptoms of glaucoma are difficult to recognise until they are at a very advanced stage. Pressure checks, ocular examination, digital photography monitoring and visual field tests now mean that a routine eye examination will often discover glaucoma.

Therefore, if you have a history of glaucoma in your family, we advise you inform us and ensure that your eyes are checked regularly for any indication of the onset of the disease.

Acute glaucoma is less common and tends to come on very quickly. Symptoms include pain and blurred vision. Some people also feel sick, faint and vomit. In the early stages, you may see misty rainbow coloured rings around white lights. If you think you are having an attack of acute glaucoma, you should attend us immediately or your local eye casualty.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration, often described as wear and tear, is a condition usually found in older adults which results in a loss of central vision because of damage to the central retina (the macula). It occurs in “dry” and “wet” forms and is a major cause of blindness in the elderly.

Macular degeneration can make it difficult to read, recognize faces and detail, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life.

Behind the retina is the choroid, which contains the blood supply to the retina. In the dry (atrophic) form of macular degeneration, cellular debris called drusen accumulates between the retina and the choroid. Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is usually slow to progress and the visual loss is usually mild; however it should still be monitored regularly to rule out the presence of wet macular degeneration.

In the wet (exudative) form, which is more severe, blood vessels grow up from the choroid behind the retina, and the retina can also become detached. Routine eye tests can help spot the early signs of this condition.

For further information:
www.maculardisease.org
www.rnib.org.uk

Cataracts

A cataract is a gradual clouding of the lens inside the eye. It is more common in people over 65. It blurs the light entering the eye and scatters it, reducing vision and making it misty.

Other symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Gradual loss of vision, like a film over the eye.
  • Glare and halos from lights or the sun. This may be severe and you may also have difficulty driving at night.
  • Double vision in one eye.
  • Colour vision may become washed out or faded.

Different types of cataract affect vision in different ways and therefore how soon you should be seen. We will advise you on the following during your eye exam. Most cataract operations today are performed under local anaesthetic as a day procedure.

Myopia – Short Sightedness

Myopia is another name for short sightedness. Light from a distant object forms an image before it reaches the retina.

This could be because the eye is too long, or the cornea or lens is too strong. A myopic person has clear vision when looking at objects close to them, but distant objects will appear blurred.

Myopia is easily corrected using prescription glasses or contact lenses. A concave lens (minus powered) is placed in front of the eye, moving the image back to the retina and sharpening the image.

Hypermetropia (Hyperopia) – Long Sighted

Hypermetropia means long sighted and is where the image of a near object is formed behind the retina.

This could be because the eye is too short, or the cornea or lens does not refract the light enough. A hypermetropic person may have blurred vision when looking at objects close to them, and clearer vision when looking at objects in the distance.

By placing a convex (plus powered) lens in front of the eye, the image is moved forward and focuses correctly on the retina.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism is the term for more than one point of focus. It occurs when the surface of the cornea or crystalline lens is not spherical (round). Light from an object does not focus exactly on the retina but at two separate points.

An astigmatic eye has curves that are steeper in one direction than the other. An example of this could be where the cornea is not spherical and shaped more like a rugby ball than a football – of course this is not noticeable by just looking at someone’s eyes. As a result, the eye is unable to focus a point or object into a sharp focused image on the retina.

There are two types of astigmatism, regular and irregular. Regular astigmatism arising from either the cornea or lens can easily be corrected by a toric lens.

Irregular astigmatism is often caused by a corneal scar or scattering in the lens and cannot be corrected by standard lenses, but may be corrected by contact lenses.

Presbyopia

Presbyopia describes the condition where the eye is progressively unable to focus on near objects. It is a perfectly natural condition that eventually affects everyone but because the effects are gradual, you may not notice that anything is wrong with your eyesight initially.

However, as the condition progresses, you may find yourself struggling to read small print or books unless they are held at arm’s length. With presbyopia, there are many factors that affect the eyes ability to accommodate over varying distances; causing images to be focused behind the retina. This leads to the eyesight becoming blurred.

Presbyopia can be easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses with a combination of options such as, varifocals, bifocals, separate glasses or mono-vision in contact lenses where we correct one eye for distance and the other for reading.

Flashes and Floaters

Many people notice flashes or floaters in front of their eyes. They are especially noticeable when looking at a plain white background and appear as greyish specks in our vision. The vitreous fluid (the jelly inside the eye) contains small particles.

These are either present from birth or are formed when the vitreous starts to deteriorate. These cast a shadow onto the retina at the back of the eye, which appear as dots or floaters.

If there is a sudden increase in floaters, especially if these are accompanied by flashing lights, or a curtain effect shadowing your vision, this may indicate a more serious problem such as Retinal detachment which left untreated can cause blindness. If you experience these sudden symptoms you should visit us or your local eye casualty immediately.

Effects of Diet on Eye Health.

Everyone knows that a healthy, balanced diet is good for your body, but it can also be good for your eyes. The old wives’ tale that eating carrots will help you see in the dark isn’t that far off the mark. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which helps to protect against night blindness and cataracts, they also contain lutein, a yellow plant pigment that lowers the risk of cataracts and protects the eyes against damage from ageing.

Eating a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables could help to prevent some eye conditions that can eventually lead to permanent sight damage. Spinach, red peppers, leeks, peaches and blueberries all contain antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin which help to protect your eyes against age-related macular degeneration.

Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet; they could reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 40%. Omega-3 can also help in the prevention of a condition known as ‘dry eye’. If you suffer from these conditions, including plenty of oily fish in your diet such as sardines, mackerel and tuna will ensure that you get a plentiful supply of Omega-3 and 6.

Drinking water is good for eye health. The eye is surrounded by fluid tissue, and to maintain a healthy balance of fluid in the eye it is important to stay well hydrated. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink, as this affects your liver and causes a drop in the level of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps protect against eye disease.

Travel with Contact Lenses.

Keep your eyes comfortable when you travel.

Re-circulated air in planes dries the surface of the eyes, making them uncomfortable, irritable and sore. So on flights it is important to remove your contact lenses for the duration of the flight and use an ordinary pair of prescription glasses. This will prevent your eyes from feeling ‘gritty’ and tired, and reduce the risk of infection. Meaning you’re bright-eyed and ready to go when you step off the plane at your holiday destination.

Avoid eye infections.

There’s a good chance that you’ll take part in some kind of water sports while away, so remember that water-borne bacteria can easily cause eye infections. If you’re planning to do a lot of swimming, we advise not to swim in contact lenses, and suggest a pair of swimming goggles (prescription if required) which will not only protect your eyes against water-borne infections, but also help to protect your eyes against the glare of the sun.

Copyright © Faith Donaldson Optometrists, 2009 . All Rights Reserved.