Receiving routine eye exams or screening can detect damage to the eye before a patient visually or physically notices any changes. If caught early enough, treatment usually helps several common eye disorders and problems.
Dr. Nicolas Hamouche, a McFarland Clinic Ophthalmologist, explains why it is important for a patient to receive routine eye exams and provides information about three common eye disorders.
“Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in working Americans,” said Dr. Hamouche, “Everyone with diabetes needs to have a complete eye exam on a yearly basis because the earlier the retinopathy is detected the easier the treatment and the better the outcome.”
Diabetic retinopathy happens when diabetes damages the blood vessels inside the retina. During the early stages, patients may not know or present any symptoms, placing an added emphasis on having a yearly retinal exam.
If you have diabetes the only way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to have good control of your blood sugar, blood pressure as well as blood lipids. Hence, diabetic care becomes a team effort between the patient, the ophthalmologist and the primary care physician.
Because symptoms may not be experienced, an ophthalmologist can detect any significant changes or advancements of the disease during a routine eye exam and can recommend treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
- Blurry or double vision
- Dark or floating spots
- Rings, flashing lights or black spots
- Pain or pressure in the eye
Treatment is determined based on how early (or late) the condition is diagnosed. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more likely vision can be saved. Treatment options include laser treatment, drug injections in the eye and surgery.
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve of the eye that is usually, but not always, associated with elevated intraocular pressure. In its more common form, open angle glaucoma, the condition progresses gradually and ‘silently’ so that loss of vision is not noticed until the disease is at an advanced stage. Closed angle glaucoma can occur with an acute attack; it is painful and less common.
Glaucoma is caused by a pressure build up in the eye. The pressure is from a buildup of a fluid that is constantly produced in the front segment of the eye. This fluid is called aqueous humor, and it normally leaves the eye through a drainage system. The pressure builds up when the fluid cannot drain out of the eye at a normal rate.
“You are at higher risk if you have a family history of glaucoma, if you have diabetes, if you are significantly near sighted or take specific medications such as prednisone or other forms of cortisone. It is a slow progressing disease, making it important to get routine eye exams,” stated Dr. Hamouche.
Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma
- Gradual loss of peripheral vision
- Tunnel vision in advanced stages
- Severe eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Sudden onset of visual problems
- Reddening of the eye
- Nausea and vomiting
- Halos around lights
Treatment typically starts with the use of medicated eye drops. If the eye drops are not enough to reduce the eye pressure then laser or ‘cutting’ surgery will need to be performed. Like in diabetes, the earlier the diagnosis of glaucoma, the easier and more successful the treatment.
Cataracts occur when the clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. People over the age of 50 are more prone to have a cataract. The haziness of the vision develops slowly and may not change your eyesight in the beginning. However, once the cataract has progressed, vision is impaired making it difficult for some to perform daily tasks.
Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts
- Clouded or blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Halos around lights
- Double vision
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Difficulty with vision at night
Cataracts may occur in one or both eyes. However, typically they develop symmetrically in both eyes. Age is the greatest risk factor for developing cataracts, the older you get the more likely your vision may deteriorate or become cloudy due to cataracts.
Having a routine eye exam will allow the physician to detect cataracts, even if you are not showing any symptoms. The only treatment for a cataract is surgery. “Cataract surgery is a very common and relatively safe surgery,” said Dr. Hamouche. The surgery is performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. During the surgery, the cloudy lens of the eye is removed and replaced with a new artificial lens.