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My eyes don't hurt and my vision is clear. Why should I have an eye exam?

Regular eye exams are an invaluable tool in maintaining your eyes' health by detecting and preventing disease. Some diseases, such as glaucoma, develop gradually without causing pain or vision loss - so you may not notice anything wrong until significant and irreversible damage has already happened. Early detection of an eye problem allows for a choice of treatment options and the prevention of further harm.

What is glaucoma? Am I at risk?

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It occurs when the pressure inside the eye rises high enough to damage the optic nerve. Some of the symptoms of glaucoma include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Halo effects around lights
  • Painful or reddened eyes

The diagnosis of glaucoma is determined after a comprehensive medical examination of the eye and a review of the patient's medical history. Testing by an ophthalmologist or optometrist can detect the symptoms of glaucoma before symptoms appear so that treatment can begin.

People at risk for developing glaucoma include those who are:

  • Older than 40
  • Diabetic
  • Near-sighted
  • African-American
  • A family history of glaucoma
  • Low blood pressure
  • Thin corneas
  • Sustained an eye injury

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for the crisp, detailed central vision needed for reading or driving. Macular degeneration occurs when the center of the retina degrades, causing a progressive loss of vision. Symptoms include:

  • A gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
  • A gradual loss of color vision
  • Distorted or blurry vision
  • A dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision
  • Wavy lines in the vision

There are two kinds of macular degeneration: "wet" and "dry." Regular eye exams are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.

What is a cataract? Who is at risk for developing them?

A cataract is a cloudy area in the normally clear lens in the front of the eye. Cataracts aren't painful, but they do cause symptoms, including:

  • Blurred or hazy vision
  • Double vision
  • Colors that appear to be faded
  • Poor vision in bright light
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Poor night time vision
  • Yellowish tinged vision
  • A feeling of "film" over the eye

People at risk for developing cataracts include some of the following:

  • People older than 55
  • People who have sustained an eye injury or disease
  • A family history of cataracts
  • Smokers
  • Certain medications
  • Diabetics
  • Alcohol users
  • Those with a prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light

How are cataracts treated?

Vision loss from cataracts can often be addressed with prescription glasses or contact lenses. For those people who are significantly affected by cataracts, lens replacement surgery may be the preferred method of treatment. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the United States. Approximately 90 percent of the people who have had cataract surgery have improved vision after the procedure.

What is diabetic retinopathy and how is it treated?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. It weakens the blood vessels that nourish the retina. Diabetic retinopathy causes the blood vessels that supply nourishment to the retina, the light-sensitive lining in the back of the eye where vision is focused, to weaken. These weakened vessels can leak, swell or develop thin branches, causing a loss of vision.

In its advanced stages, diabetic retinopathy can cause the following symptoms:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Floaters
  • Blind spots
  • Flashing lights
  • Pain or pressure in either or both eyes

This damage is irreversible. Treatment can slow the progression of the disease and prevent further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser and surgical procedures.

Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?

Yes. Patients with diabetes need to have an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam. The length of time a patient has diabetes will determine the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy. Over 40 percent of patients in the United States, diagnosed with diabetes, have a form of diabetic retinopathy.

The risks of developing diabetic eye disease can be minimized by:

  • Monitoring changes in vision
  • Keeping A1C levels under 7%
  • Monitoring and managing blood pressure levels
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Participating in a regular exercise routine
  • Monitoring and managing cholesterol levels

What are the symptoms of dry eye and how is it treated?

People usually begin experiencing dry eye symptoms as they age, but the condition can also result from certain medications, conditions or injuries. Dry eye tends to affect women more often than men, due to the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy or menopause. Oral contraceptives can also affect the consistency of tears. Dry eye is more common in people older than 50.

Symptoms include:

  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Irritation from smoke or wind
  • Eyes that feel scratchy
  • Eye fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Excessive tearing
  • Blurry vision

Left untreated, dry eye can lead to the following complications:

  • Pain
  • Ulcers or scars on the cornea
  • Loss of vision

Dry eye is not preventable, but it can be controlled before harm is done to your eyes.

Treatment for dry eye depends on the cause and severity of the condition, as well as the patient's overall health and personal preference. Non-surgical treatments are often effective, and may include the following:

  • Blinking on purpose
  • Increasing humidity levels at home or work
  • Use artificial tears or a moisturizing ointment
  • Stop smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Avoiding air conditioning or windy conditions outdoors
  • Stop the use of allergy and cold medicines
  • Adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet as food or supplements

If non-surgical methods are unsuccessful, surgical treatments may be an option. Treatment options may include:

  • Small punctal plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage
  • Punctal cautery, a procedure to permanently close the drainage holes may be another option
  • Eyelid surgery is also a solution if an eyelid condition is causing your dry eyes

Treating the underlying cause of dry eyes can also help relieve the symptoms of this condition.

How does LASIK work?

LASIK changes the way light is bent, or refracted, as it passes through the cornea so that it focuses properly on the retina and objects can be seen clearly. A device called a microkeratome cuts a thin flap in the surface of the cornea. An excimer laser beam then reshapes the cornea's curvature to improve vision. The flap is then closed and covered with a protective contact lens.

How long does the procedure take, and how long is recovery?

The entire procedure takes only 15-30 minutes per eye, and patients are often ready to leave within an hour or two. The flap heals on its own within a few days with no need for stitches.

To learn more about our Ophthalmology Services, please call us to schedule an appointment at 713.473.5715!

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