Eye Health & FAQs

As primary eye health care providers, our Doctors of Optometry examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eyes and associated structures as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. Below is information concerning several eye conditions or diseases. Please contact us for more detailed information and to request an appointment.

Information provided courtesy of the American Optometric Association
Eye disease images sourced from the National Eye Institute

 

 Glaucoma

Eye health: GlaucomaGlaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage to the optic nerve, resulting in loss of vision. The optic nerve transmits visual signal from the eye to the brain. The common form of glaucoma, primary open angle glaucoma, is associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eyes. This higher pressure causes progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision. Advanced glaucoma may even cause blindness. Not everyone with high pressure will develop glaucoma, and many people with normal eye pressure can develop glaucoma. When the pressure inside an eye is too high for that particular optic nerve, glaucoma will develop. There are many types of glaucoma and theories regarding the causes. The exact cause of glaucoma is not known and it cannot currently be prevented.

Who is at risk?
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. Most forms of glaucoma develop slowly and usually without any symptoms. Many people do not become aware they have the condition until significant vision loss has occurred. It initially affects peripheral or side vision, but can advance to central vision. But, if glaucoma is detected at an early stage and treated promptly, it can usually be controlled with little or no further vision loss. That is why annual optometric examinations are so important for people at risk of glaucoma.

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

Nearsightedness, or myopia, as it is medically termed, is a vision condition in which close objects are seen clearly, but objects farther away appear blurred. Nearsightedness occurs if the eyeball is too long or the cornea, the clear front cover of the eye, has too much curvature. As a result, the light entering the eye isn’t focused correctly and distant objects look blurred.

Nearsightedness is a very common vision condition affecting nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population. Some research supports the theory that nearsightedness is hereditary. There is also growing evidence that it is influenced by the visual stress of too much close work.

Health: MyopiaGenerally, nearsightedness first occurs in school-age children. Because the eye continues to grow during childhood, it typically progresses until about age 20. However, nearsightedness may also develop in adults due to visual stress or health conditions such as diabetes.

A common sign of nearsightedness is difficulty with the clarity of distant objects like a movie or TV screen or the chalkboard in school. A comprehensive optometric examination will include testing for nearsightedness. An optometrist can prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses that correct nearsightedness by bending the visual images that enter the eyes, focusing the images correctly at the back of the eye. Depending on the amount of nearsightedness, you may only need to wear glasses or contact lenses for certain activities, like watching a movie or driving a car. Or, if you are very nearsighted, they may need to be worn all the time.

Another option for treating nearsightedness is orthokeratology (ortho-k), also known as corneal refractive therapy. It is a non-surgical procedure that involves wearing a series of specially designed rigid contact lenses to gradually reshape the curvature of your cornea. The lenses place pressure on the cornea to flatten it. This changes how light entering the eye is focused.

Laser procedures are also a possible treatment for nearsightedness in adults. They involve reshaping the cornea by removing a small amount of eye tissue. This is accomplished by using a highly focused laser beam on the surface of the eye.

For people with higher levels of nearsightedness, other refractive surgery procedures are now available. These procedures involve implanting a small lens with the desired optical correction directly inside the eye, either just in front of the natural lens (phakic intraocular lens implant) or replacing the natural lens (clear lens extraction with intraocular lens implantation). These procedures are similar to one used for cataract surgery patients, who also have lenses implanted in their eyes (intraocular lens implants).

Astigmatism

Often the eye is shaped like an egg or rugby ball. This is what we call astigmatism and it is quite a normal condition which most of us have to some degree. Like an egg, two main areas of curvature are found: one is flatter and the other is steeper. This causes the light to focus in two different positions such that the steeper or more curved area focuses further forward and the less curved or flatter further back. The effect on vision is to distort shapes so similarly shaped characters become confused. The letter G may be confused with a C and the number 2 may be mistaken for the letter Z.

Cataracts

Health: CataractA cataract is a clouding or darkening that develops in the normally clear lens of the eye. This prevents the lens from properly focusing light on the retina, at the back of the eye, resulting in a loss of vision. It is not a film that grows over the surface of the eye.

No one is exactly sure what causes a cataract, but it is known that chemical changes within the lens cause it to become cloudy. This is often thought of as a part of the natural aging process, but it may also result from heredity, an injury or disease.

Cataracts are most often found in persons over age 55, but are also occasionally found in younger persons, even newborns. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, but often at different rates, Some cataracts develop slowly over a period of years and others form rapidly within a few months.

Through a comprehensive eye examination, your doctor of optometry can determine whether or not you have cataracts.

Floaters

Floaters, sometimes called spots, are small, semi-transparent or cloudy particles that float within the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inner portion of the eye. Floaters are usually harmless, and are seen by many of us, at one time or another.

Eye health: FloatersThey generally look like translucent specks of various shapes and sizes or like cobwebs. They are frequently visible when looking at a plain-lighted background like a blank pastel wall, a blue sky, or the white pages of a book. Floaters become visible when they fall within the line of sight and cast a shadow on the retina (the light sensitive portion of the back of the eye).

What causes floaters?
There are a number of possible causes for floaters. They may be small flecks of protein or other matter that were trapped during the formation of the eyes before birth and remain suspended in the clear fluid of the vitreous.

Deterioration of the vitreous fluid may also cause floaters to develop. This can be part of the natural aging process and is often not serious, though it can be very annoying. Also certain eye diseases or injuries can cause floaters.

Sometimes flashes or streaks of light may appear. This may be happening because the jelly-like vitreous is shrinking and puling on the retina. The retinal receptor cells are stimulated to “fire” by this tugging action and cause the perception of light flashes.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss among people over age 60, It results from changes to the macula, a portion of the retina which is located on the inside back layer of the eye. The macula is responsible for clear, sharp vision and is many times more sensitive than the rest of the retina, Without a healthy macula, seeing detail or vivid color is not possible.

Eye health: Age=related Macular DegenerationThere are two types of age-related macular degeneration, wet and dry AMD, In the dry type, deposits form in the tissue of the macula and it stops functioning properly. This type is thought to occur as part of the aging process or the eye in some people. There is currently no preventive treatment available for this slowly progressive condition, although much research is being conducted in this area. Studies suggest that taking certain nutritional supplements may slow the progression of this disease.

Wet macular degeneration is less common than dry macular degeneration. In wet AMD, fluids from newly formed blood vessels leak under the macula and cause significant vision loss. This condition can sometimes be treated with laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, or injections into the eye. Early detection and prompt treatment is vital in limiting visual loss.

Some symptoms of macular degeneration are: A gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly Objects appear to be distorted in shape or straight lines appear wavy or crooked A gradual loss of clear color vision A dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision.

These symptoms may also indicate other eye health problems, so if you are experiencing any of these, you should contact your doctor of optometry as soon as possible.

In a comprehensive eye examination, your doctor will perform a variety of tests to determine if you have macular degeneration or other eye conditions.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes and its complications can greatly affect many parts of the eye. A common complication of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy in which elevated blood sugar damages the delicate blood vessels inside the eye, causing them to leak, bleed and become blocked. If untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness.

Eye health: Diabetic RetinopathyDiabetic retinopathy can seriously affect vision and, if left untreated, cause blindness. It is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 70 years.

Because this disease can cause blindness, early diagnosis and timely treatment is essential. That’s one reason why it is important to have your eyes examined regularly by a doctor of optometry, especially if you have diabetes or are at risk for development of diabetes. Besides retinopathy, other eye conditions associated with diabetes include fluctuations in vision, double-vision, cataracts and a certain type of glaucoma.

During a comprehensive eye examination, your optometrist gets to know you, your medical history, your family history, your lifestyle and your vision needs.

To detect diabetic retinopathy, your optometrist can look inside your eyes with lights and lenses that magnify the view of the retina. The interior of your eyes may also be photographed to provide documentation of the retinal appearance.