Common Eye Disorders
One in four people over the age of 60 have signs of cataracts and should have their eyes examined regularly.
An examination by your optometrist will reveal any changes to the lens of the eye that may lead to cataracts before any symptoms appear.
A cataract is a cloudiness that forms in the lens of the eye, which over time grows larger making it difficult to see. Generally the development of cataracts is a gradual and painless deterioration in sight. Other symptoms can include blurred or hazy vision, spots before the eyes, double vision and increased sensitivity to glare. Surgery is usually performed when the patient’s vision starts to interfere with daily life. Most patients have a plastic lens inserted to replace their own lens, with almost all people having improved vision and quality of life afterward. Cataract surgery is now a relatively minor procedure that is safe and effective, often performed under local anaesthetic.
There is no proven method to prevent cataracts, though cigarette smoking and UV exposure increase your risk. A broad brimmed hat and sunglasses that meet Australian standards should be worn outdoors to reduce this risk.
It is estimated that over 50 per cent of Australians over the age of 70 have cataracts. Around 160, 000 cataract operations are performed annually.
It is expected that the number of people who will become blind from cataract will increase by 75 per cent by 2024, unless there is increased prevention activity.
Cataract facts and tips
Regular eye examinations are the key to diagnosis and treatment for cataract.
Symptoms can include blurred or hazy vision, spots before the eyes, double vision and increased sensitivity to glare.
Cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure, often done under local anaesthetic.
Australians believe that blindness and severe vision loss would limit their ability to work and leave them socially isolated, according to new research released by the Macular Degeneration (MD) Foundation.
It is alarming to see that 60 per cent of people believe they would be unable to work if affected by severe vision loss or blindness and that 68 per cent said they would feel isolated and more than half would require support from a health or welfare agency.
What alarms me is that even though more than 50 per cent of people believe that they would feel lonely, isolated or depressed, only about 20 per cent had their vision checked.
The research further shows that 67 per cent of people rate the health of their macula as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ which is inconsistent with patient attendance to optometrists or ophthalmologists.
Only an optometrist or ophthalmologist can determine the health of your macula, which means we still have some way to go in educating people.
People over the age of 50 or with a family history of MD should have their macula examined regularly. They should also be aware of the symptoms of MD so they can seek early treatment if there is a problem.
There are some simple steps that can help reduce the risk of MD. Don’t smoke, keep a healthy lifestyle, eat a well balanced diet including fish and dark green leafy vegetables; ensuring your intake of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3s is sufficient. Also, in consultation with your doctor consider taking a zinc and antioxidant supplement and provide adequate protection to your eyes from sunlight.
About Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Australia. The macula is the central part of the retina, which is the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina processes all visual images and is responsible for the ability to drive, see colours clearly, read and recognise faces. Macular Degeneration causes progressive macula damage resulting in central vision loss. The need for increased illumination, sensitivity to glare, decreased night vision and poor colour sensitivity can indicate that there is something wrong. The major risk factors for Macula Degeneration are age, smoking and a family history of the disease.
Vision One Eyecare and the Macular Degeneration Foundation recommends all Australians over the age of 40 seek an eye examination every two years.
Smoking: The Blinding Facts
Smokers are aware of the overall health risks of smoking but many are blind to the fact that smoking can cause significant damage and accelerate the ageing process of their eyes.
Approximately 80% of the information received by a person comes through the eyes yet 3.5 million Australians are still risking their eyesight through smoking.
Smokers are likely to develop cataracts – a symptom of ageing – earlier and more severely than non-smokers and may be exposing themselves to eye diseases such as glaucoma and Graves’ disease.
Smoking can double the risk of some forms of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that can destroy your vision.
Vision One Eyecare encourages patients to give up smoking for the sake of their vision and overall health. We regularly see patients in our practice who are completely unaware that their smoking habits are impacting on their eyes and vision.
Most of us are aware that if we choose to smoke we face the risk of cancer and other serious diseases, but few consider that this habit can degrade our eyesight.
Aside from irreparably destroying vision, smoking can cause complications for contact lens wearers, can impair our night vision and may even affect unborn children.
Smoking during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of strabismus in children – inward or outward turning of the eyes.
Everyone should get their eyes checked once every two years, and smokers who are worried about their vision can also receive some support and advice about how smoking is impacting their eyes and sight.
Vision is our most precious sense, so it is important for people to understand the immediate and long-term consequences smoking can have on their vision.
Smoking is the single largest cause of preventable death and disease in Australia; equating to around 16,000 deaths each year.
From the age of 40 onwards everyone will experience changes in their near vision.
This common condition that makes vision difficult at a normal reading distance is known as Presbyopia. This is a normal change in the ageing process. Normally your eyes are focussed for distance vision. To focus on close objects, a muscle in the eye changes the shape of the lens. When we get older the lens loses its flexibility and is less able to change its shape, making it difficult to focus on close objects.
People with presbyopia may have difficulty concentrating when reading or may find that periods of close work results in sore eyes, headaches or tiredness. Although like stiffening joints or greying hair, presbyopia cannot be prevented, it can be corrected with spectacles or lenses.
As your ability to focus weakens, you will need to have regular eye examinations every two years and may need your prescription changed every few years. Regular examinations are also essential for people over the age of 40 to keep track of other potential eye health problems. Presbyopia will continue regardless of whether or not spectacles are worn. Wearing spectacles does not accelerate or slow the development of presbyopia.
Facts and tips
Presbyopia essentially affects everyone over the age of 40.
The condition cannot be prevented but can be corrected with spectacles or lenses.
Regular eye examinations are needed for people over the age of 40.
Conjunctivitis triggers can mostly be avoided
Severe conjunctivitis can harm your vision if left untreated and you should see your optometrist to see if treatment is required.
Conjunctivitis occurs when the thin transparent layer that lines the inner eyelids and the white parts of the eye, becomes inflamed. There are three types of conjunctivitis including infectious, allergic and toxic conjunctivitis.
Infectious conjunctivitis may occur in only one eye and is very contagious. It can be caused by bacteria and symptoms usually include a sticky, watery discharge and the eyelids can stick together on waking. Infectious conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic eye drops and ointment. This condition can also be caused by a virus where symptoms include a watery, clear discharge and a feeling that there is foreign matter in the eye. In this case drops are prescribed by an optometrist and your immune system has to fight off the virus.
To control the spread of infectious conjunctivitis it is important to keep your hands away from your eyes; wash your hands before applying eye medication and don’t share towels, face washers, cosmetics, pillows or eye drops with others.
Allergic conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes and is not contagious. This type of conjunctivitis occurs when airborne agents such as pollen, cosmetics, animals or fabric, cause irritation. The body’s reaction can cause swelling of the conjunctiva, which is a thin glandular membrane. Some people also experience nasal allergy symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling and a stuffy nose. To manage allergic conjunctivitis, you should focus on prevention or avoidance of the allergens that trigger your symptoms.
Toxic conjunctivitis may occur in one eye only and is not contagious. This condition occurs when the eye is exposed to an irritant such as air pollution, noxious fumes and excessive chlorine in swimming pools. In the workplace or home, acids and cleaning chemicals can be the cause. The eye usually becomes irritated immediately after exposure. In the case of exposure to a chemical, the eye should be flushed, preferably with fresh water, for several minutes. If you have allergic or toxic conjunctivitis, it is important to consult your optometrist. If the cause of the problem is identified, you can then try to avoid it.
Tips to reduce your exposure to allergens that cause allergic conjunctivitis:
Stay indoors when the wind is blowing pollen
Wear spectacles or sunglasses outdoors
Vision One Eyecare Optometrists reminds relatives not to ignore the glaucoma family connection.
As part of Glaucoma Week (August 17th – 23rd), Vision One Eyecare is urging people who have a family history of glaucoma to have their eyes examined regularly.
Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease which can lead to blindness.
If you have a family member who has glaucoma, there is about a four times greater likelihood of you developing the disease.
People with a family history of glaucoma need to have their eyes examined every two years unless otherwise specified by their optometrist.
Glaucoma can be treated effectively, especially if it is detected early. Early detection increases treatment options, which can significantly slow the progression of the disease.
We also encourages people with glaucoma to play an active part in reminding their family members to book an eye examination.
It is crucial for people with glaucoma to speak to their families about this silent and progressive eye condition so they understand the necessity of regular eye examinations.
It is estimated that around 300,000 Australians have glaucoma and half are undiagnosed. The direct medical costs of glaucoma are almost $150 million annually.
Glaucoma facts and tips
Regular eye examinations are the key to diagnosis and more effective treatment for glaucoma.
There is a significant increased risk of developing glaucoma if you have a family history of glaucoma, diabetes, migraine, short sightedness (myopia), eye injuries, blood pressure or past or present use of cortisone drugs (steroids).
If you have a family member who has glaucoma, you have about a four times greater likelihood of developing the disease.
While initially there are few symptoms from glaucoma, in some cases patients may note blurred vision, coloured rings around lights, loss of side vision and/or pain and redness of the eye.
Glaucoma can be treated effectively, especially if detected early. Treatment options include eye drops, laser and surgery.
If you have glaucoma, encourage your family to visit an optometrist to have their eyes examined regularly.
What is amblyopia?
The brain and the eye work together to produce vision. Light enters the eye and is changed into nerve signals that travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Amblyopia is the medical term used when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. The eye itself looks normal, but it is not being used normally because the brain is favoring the other eye. This condition is also sometimes called lazy eye.
How common is amblyopia?
Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood. The condition affects approximately 2 to 3 out of every 100 children. Unless it is successfully treated in early childhood, amblyopia usually persists into adulthood, and is the most common cause of monocular (one eye) visual impairment among children and young and middle-aged adults.
What causes amblyopia?
Amblyopia may be caused by any condition that affects normal visual development or use of the eyes. Amblyopia can be caused by strabismus, an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes. Strabismus can cause the eyes to cross in (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia). Sometimes amblyopia is caused when one eye is more nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic than the other eye. Occasionally, amblyopia is caused by other eye conditions such as cataract.
How is amblyopia treated in children?
Amblyopia treatment is most effective when done early in the child's life, usually before age 7. Treating amblyopia involves making the child use the eye with the reduced vision (weaker eye). Currently, there are two ways used to do this:
A drop of a drug called atropine is placed in the stronger eye once a day to temporarily blur the vision so that the child will prefer to use the eye with amblyopia. Treatment with atropine also stimulates vision in the weaker eye and helps the part of the brain that manages vision develop more completely.
An opaque, adhesive patch is worn over the stronger eye for weeks to months. This therapy forces the child to use the eye with amblyopia. Patching stimulates vision in the weaker eye and helps the part of the brain that manages vision develop more completely.
Can amblyopia be treated in adults?
During the first six to nine years of life, the visual system develops very rapidly. Complicated connections between the eye and the brain are created. We do not yet have the technology to create these eye-to-brain connections in older children and adults. Scientists are exploring whether treatment for amblyopia in older children and adults can improve vision.
More than 70 per cent of Australians with diabetes will develop changes to their eyes within 15 years of diagnosis.
Patients who have had diabetes for a number of years can develop changes in the retina, which is known as diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when tiny blood vessels inside the retina are damaged. The damage can block off small blood vessels, starving areas of the retina of blood, or make the vessels leak, causing swelling and bleeding.
While little is known about prevention of diabetic retinopathy, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent up to 98 per cent of severe vision loss. To manage the onset of diabetic retinopathy, locals are urged to seek diabetic eye screening at our Langwarrin, Mornington or Carrum Downs branches.
Two types of retinopathy can occur. The first, known as background retinopathy, rarely causes any vision loss and doesn’t require treatment. The second, proliferative retinopathy, is more serious and requires early treatment to prevent serious vision loss. In some cases, laser or surgical treatment of the retina is required.
All people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and the longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk. Poor control of blood sugar levels can also increase the risk.
It is estimated that only half the Australians with diabetes have a regular eye exam and one third have never been checked. An eye exam every two years is necessary for people with diabetes because often there are no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy until serious damage has occurred, so contact Vision One Eyecare today about our diabetic eye screening in Langwarrin, Mornington and Carrum Downs to ensure your long-term health.