We have shared the advice from lookingafteryoureyes.org on some of the more common eye conditions we see in practice for:
Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK – affecting more than 600,000 people. However, most people with AMD can see well enough to get around.
The macula is an area at the back of your eye that is responsible for your central vision, most of your colour vision and making out fine detail. When the macula is damaged, it becomes harder to recognise faces, or to read or watch television. However, the edge of your vision (peripheral vision) is not normally affected.
There are two stages in AMD:
Early AMD is always dry AMD. This is when yellow deposits, known as drusen, build up behind the macula. Most people with early AMD have near normal vision. There is no treatment for early AMD. It is important to note that many people with early AMD do not progress to late AMD and will not develop sight loss.
Late AMD can ‘wet’ or ‘dry’. Around 10-15% of people with early AMD will develop wet AMD. This develops when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and leak blood or fluid, which leads to scarring and rapid loss of central vision. Wet AMD can develop very suddenly but it can now be treated if caught quickly. Fast referral to a hospital specialist is essential.
Late dry AMD is called geographic atrophy and is quite rare. This is where you lose vision because the retina at your macula thins but there are no leaking blood vessels. There is no treatment for geographic atrophy.
The older we are the greater our risk of developing AMD. Around one in every 200 people has AMD at 60. However, by the age of 90 it affects one person in five. We are all living longer so the number of people affected is increasing. You are more at risk of developing AMD if you have a family history of the condition or already have it in one eye.
Here are some of the symptoms of AMD:
Straight lines may appear distorted or bent.
Cataracts are formed when the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy or misty. This is a gradual process that usually happens as we get older. It does not hurt. The early stages of a cataract do not necessarily affect your sight, but if your sight becomes very impaired you may be referred for surgery to replace the cataract with a clear artificial lens. This surgery is carried out under a local anaesthetic and has a very high success rate.
Cataracts mainly develop in those aged 65 or older. Younger people can develop cataracts following an injury to the eye. Some medical conditions such as diabetes, or taking some sorts of medication such as steroids, may also cause cataracts. Smokers are also more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers and there may also be a link between UV rays (sunshine) and cataracts. A very small number of babies are born with a cataract.
If you have cataracts you may notice that your vision is less clear and distinct. Car headlights and streetlights can become dazzling, and you may experience difficulty moving from shade to sunlit areas. Colours may look faded or yellowed.
Many people with a cataract notice that they need to change the prescription for their glasses more often than they used to. If you are long-sighted, you may even notice that you need your glasses less than you did before you had the cataract!
Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears, or your tears evaporate too quickly. This can make your eyes feel scratchy or irritated, and in severe cases may temporarily make your vision blurry.
Dry eye is more common in women and in people aged over 65. This is because as you get older, your eyelids are not as effective at spreading your tears across your eyes when you blink. Also, the meibomian glands in your eyelids, which produce the oily part of your tears, become less effective and may become blocked. This is a condition called blepharitis.
Despite its name, having dry eye can actually cause your eyes to water. This is because the watery layer of your tears will dilute the oiliness of your tears, which reduces their ability to lubricate your eyes.
Symptoms of dry eye include:
Treatment of dry eye depends on what is causing it.
You can help to prevent dry eye by:
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, is damaged by the pressure of the fluid inside your eye. It can affect one or both of your eyes and can lead to sight loss if not treated. The two most common types of glaucoma are:
Anyone can develop chronic glaucoma. But the risk increases if you:
People at risk of developing acute glaucoma include:
If one of your parents or children, or a brother or sister, has glaucoma, and you are over 40, the NHS will pay for your eye examination. In Scotland, all eye examinations are paid for by the NHS.
There are no symptoms in the early stages of chronic glaucoma, so it is important to have eye examinations – especially if you are in the group of people at risk of getting this condition. In the later stages, you may have blurring around the outside of your vision.
Acute glaucoma causes the pressure inside your eye to increase rapidly. The increased pressure can come and go, and some people get short bursts of pain or discomfort and blurred vision. This can happen when your pupils get bigger, so you may notice it at night or when you are in a dark area (like the cinema) or when you are reading. Other symptoms include an ache in the eye which may come and go, nausea and vomiting, red eyes, or seeing coloured rings around white lights, or it can be a bit like looking through a haze or mist. If you get these symptoms it is important to act quickly. If the symptoms persist, you should go to the Accident and Emergency department immediately, so that they can reduce the pressure and get rid of the pain. Even if the symptoms appear to go away, your vision may be damaged, so you should see your optometrist as soon as possible.
If your optometrist suspects that you have chronic glaucoma, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist (a specialist eye doctor) for a diagnosis. This may involve you having more tests. There is no cure for chronic glaucoma but it can be treated effectively, normally with eye drops which you use every day. These reduce the pressure in your eye. You will not feel that anything is happening, but you must ensure that you keep using the drops, as your sight could be much worse if you stop the treatment. It is also important that you attend your follow-up appointments.
Acute glaucoma requires prompt treatment. The first step is to lower the eye pressure. This is done using eye drops and an intravenous injection. Once the pressure is lowered, your ophthalmologist will use a laser or surgery to bypass the blockage in your eye’s drainage system to prevent the problem coming back.