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Glaucoma Diabetic Retinopathy Cataracts Dry Eyes Treatment Causes Cure Edinburgh Dundee Glasgow

The following sections contain information on various eye conditions, their symptoms and effects on your sight and what can be done to help.

  • Cataracts
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Dry Eyes

Cataracts

The lens is situated behind the iris (the coloured part of the eye). The lens within the eye is usally clear. Its purpose is to bend light rays so that they provide a clear image to the retina at the back of the eye. Cataract is the name given to the condition of this lens becoming clouded. This clouding may vary in its severity from a small amount to dense areas of haziness. A cataract is most often an age-related condition.  It disturbs the passage of light through the eye and therefore inhibits the eye’s ability to focus correctly.
A cataract is caused by metabolic changes within the lens. These changes are very common with age. Cataracts may also occasionally be caused by injury, radiation, medication or other eye diseases.

How do cataracts affect sight?

A person with a cataract may find their vision has become blurred, they may suffer from glare and find bright lights uncomfortable. Colours may not appear to be as bright and objects look dull. The progression of cataracts varies from person to person and even between each eye in the same person. In some cases, the person affected can see well in the house but find vision is reduced by glare or at night.

For many people who have mild cataract there is no noticeable affect on their vision. In more severe cases when the day to day vision is causing problems and vision can’t be improved with a change of glasses treatment is usually required.

Treatment

For some cases, a change of glasses may be of benefit, whilst for others cataract surgery may be the best form of treatment. This is a procedure is usually performed under local anaesthetic on a day surgery or in-patient basis. Special lighting and magnifiers are also useful.

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Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration (MD) is damage or breakdown of the macula. The macula is the central part of the retina which allows us to see detail and to appreciate colour. It is the small spot (approximately 3mm) near the middle of the retina, (the back of the eye which is sensitive to light)

How does it affect sight?

MD affects the central vision. Seeing detail at a distance or close work is difficult. The eye may still have good  peripheral vision, but blank spots appear in the centre. This makes reading, sewing or seeing faces difficult. Other symptoms include: dimming of colour vision, difficulty in judging heights and distances, and therefor there may be some difficulty with tasks such as pouring tea. Sometimes only one eye loses vision, while the other eye may see well for years.

MD does not lead to total blindness. People with MD mostly retain good side or peripheral vision. This means they can cope well with most daily tasks. The latest magnification devices can be very useful.

Who is susceptible?

Apart from some rarer forms, MD is not hereditary. The condition occurs most commonly in older people in which case it is known as Age Related Macular Degeneration – ARMD.

Diagnosis and treatment

An ophthalmologist can detect MD in its early stages. Special magnifying glasses, daily living aids such as needle threaders, large print books, proper lighting or a combination of these can help the person with MD to be independent and lead a normal life. In some cases, laser treatment can be useful if the condition is detected early. Research has shown some evidence that good diet can help limit progression of macular disease. In particular fruit and vegetables, containing high levels of antioxidants and pigments such as lutein are important parts of the diet. Vitamin supplements are also available which are especially designed to supply these vital ingredients for example Macushield which contains both lutein and meso-zeaxanthin

In some cases of wet macular degeneration, where the vision is lost suddenly, laser treatment can limit the damage provided it is addressed very quickly. If you do notice a sudden lose of vision it is always vital to see an optometrist as a matter of urgency.

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Glaucoma

Glaucoma the main cause of preventable blindness in the UK, being responsible for 13% of those on the blind register. It is estimated that about half a million people suffer from glaucoma in the UK alone approximately 50%  of these have the chronic form of the disease and in this group half remain undetected. If it is diagnosed early blindness is often preventable.

The eye is normally filled with ‘intra ocular’ fluid which constantly produced,drains away and is replaced. In the case of glaucoma, intra ocular fluid is not drained away efficiently, or it may be produced in large amounts. If this causes too much pressure in the eye, the optic nerve is damaged, blind areas in the field of vision develop. Glaucoma tends to happen slowly, often with no noticeable changes until after the damage is done.  Regular eye examinations can detect the onset of Glaucoma long before these symptoms are noticed.

How does it affect sight?

Acute glaucoma is associated with a rapid increase in the internal pressure of the eye. Symptoms include pain, blurred vision and haloes around lights. Chronic glaucoma is more common; side vision is affected first. This can happen very gradually and may not be noticed until quite advanced damage has occurred. This is why it is important to have routine eye examinations even if you don’t think any changes have occurred.

Diagnosis and treatment

Most glaucoma cases can be treated. A painless examination is made to measure the pressure within the eye. The optometrist also views the back of the eye to examine the optic nerve for any damage and may carry out a detailed check of your side vision. Damage cannot be reversed, however, treatment can prevent it from becoming worse. The longer high pressure remains in the eye, the more likely damage will occur. Treatment aims to reduce the pressure by helping fluid to drain out of the eye, or by reducing the amount produced.

Eye drops instilled daily are most often used to treat glaucoma, although sometimes laser and surgery are necessary. Glaucoma is a life-long condition which requires continual management to prevent loss of vision.

Who is susceptible?

Most cases of glaucoma occur in the older age group. There is a higher risk of developing glaucoma if there is a family history of the condition. People over the age of 40 and those with a family history should have a regular eye examination including a presssure test glaucoma test.

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Diabetic Retinopathy

This is changes to the retina caused by diabetes, although having diabetes does not necessarily lead to sight loss. The retina is at the back of the eye and is made up of cells which are sensitive to light. Early diabetic retinopathy is sometimes the first indication of diabetes. If your optometrist sees changes to the retinal blood vessels during your eye examination, they may advise further checks with your doctor. The retina is fed by a network of blood vessels. Diabetes can cause blood vessels to break , leaking blood and  interfering with vision. Blood clots and scars may form on the retina, blocking the light rays from nerve cells and interfering with their nutrition.

Complete loss of vision can occur when scar tissue develops at the back of the eye. This sometimes pulls and detaches the retina.

Prevention and treatment

The avoidance of the onset of Diabetic retinopathy or its advancement is helped by correct management of diabetes and regular eye check-ups with an ophthalmologist. Laser light beams directed to the affected part of the retina may be used to seal leaking blood vessels.

Who is susceptible?

Being specific to diabetics, those who also have high blood pressure, nephritis, are pregnant or have prolonged poor diabetic management are considered to have a higher risk of developing this condition

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Dry Eyes

What is it?

The  front surface of the eye is protected by a layer of tears which have antibacterial properties and keep the eyes moisturised and comfortable. In addition the tear layer provides a smooth surface for the refraction of the light as it enters the eye.

Dry eye occurs when some of the tear components aren’t produced in sufficient quantity. This can cause grittiness and irritation and also some blurring of vision – this is sometimes associated with computer use where a bright screen is viewed, and the blink rate may reduce. Paradoxically the eye may respond by producing extra tears – but these are often of reduced quality i.e. they are of a more watery consistency, rather than being oily so the eye still feels uncomfortable as these watery tears do not lubricate as well as oily tears

Prevention and Treatment

Avoiding dehydration and dry working environments is helpful. If you work in modern air conditioned/ central heated offices remember to drink plenty of water during the day. At home simply humidifiers on radiators can improve the atmosphere. Tear supplements are usually beneficial – theses range from eye drops throught gels to overnight ointments.  In many cases, products such as Hyabak and Thealoz give a relief which is almost instant, and long lasting. Systane eye drops from Alcon are quite fluid as they enter the eye but then adjusts the viscosity to balance with the patient’s natural tear layer. It is also thought that certain vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements can significantly improve tear quality and quantity. Many papers have been published both in the USA and Britain on this subject and in over 50% of patients the use of supplements can give noticeable improvements. Of these supplements, Evening Primrose oil (Gamma Linolenic Acid), Zinc & Vitamen A are thought to be most helpful.  Evening Primrose Oil is changed in the body to a beneficial hormone which helps regulate the menstrual cycle, skin condition and blood pressure. It affects mucous tissues and can assist in asthma attacks. The eyelids are made up of mucous tissue and Evening Primrose can improve secretions from the lids hence contact lens wearers have regularly reported, that when taking it their lenses are more comfortable. Vitamin A is believed to control the quality of tears making for better comfort and vision.

Zinc stimulates the tear glands to produce more tears which means eye surfaces dry up less. As a direct result vision may be improved and more vital oxygen, the nutrient of the cornea, gets to the eyes.

Who is susceptible

Whereas dry eye was previously associated with increasing age, with modern dry environments , dry eye syndrome can affect people of any age. Becoming more aware of the problem are those who are contact lens wearers and people working on computers. The elderly and those with some general conditions such as arthritis make the condition more prominent

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