Common Eye Conditions
Myopia, or near-sightedness, is when the eye cannot see clearly at the distance, but can see well up close. This happens when the length of the eye is too long or if the curvature of the cornea is too steep, causing the light rays to be focused in front of the retina. Ways to correct for myopia include glasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery (LASIK, PRK, phakic lens implant).
Hyperopia, or far-sightedness, is when the eye sees better at the distance than up close. This happens when the length of the eye is too short or if the curvature of the cornea is too flat, causing the light rays to be focused behind the retina. Our natural lens can sometimes compensate for this by accommodation, but as we age, we start to lose this ability of auto-focus. Ways to correct for hyperopia include glasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery (LASIK, PRK).
Astigmatism means that instead of focusing the light to a single point, the eye focuses the light to multiple different locations. This is either caused by an irregular, (football shaped) cornea, or irregularities in the natural lens inside the eye. Astigmatism can exist in combination with any other refractive disorders. Ways to correct for astigmatism include glasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery (LASIK, PRK)
Presbyopia happens to all of us around the age of 45. As we age, the natural lens begins to harden and gradually lose its ability to change in shape. This makes it more difficult to focus on objects up close. Initially, affected individuals can notice this by needing to hold their reading material further away. Some near-sighted individuals find it helpful to take their glasses off to read. Presbyopia may be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, monovision LASIK/PRK, and lens extraction with implantation of presbyopia correcting lenses.
A cataract is a yellowing or clouding of the natural clear lens inside the eye, which causes the vision to decrease. This is a normal aging process and happens to everyone. Certain disease processes, including diabetes and inflammation within the eye can speed up the formation of a cataract. A cataract is problematic when it decreases the vision enough to affect your daily activities, such as driving and reading. Changing your glasses prescription may partially improve your vision, but the vision is typically still impaired since the eye is seeing through a cloudy lens. Cataract surgery is then needed to remove the cloudy lens, and a clear lens implant is placed to restore the vision.
Glaucoma is a disease of the nerve of the eye responsible for transmitting vision from the eye to the brain. The damage to the nerve typically causes the eye to lose its peripheral vision. As the nerve damage worsens, the loss of peripheral vision becomes more and more central, and can eventually lead to blindness. Glaucoma is usually associated with high eye pressure, but even individuals with normal eye pressure can develop glaucoma. The high eye pressure that causes glaucoma does not produce any eye symptoms most of the time. This is why regular complete eye exams are essential for the early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma.
Patients with diabetes are at increased risk of vision loss from changes in the retina. The increase in blood sugar causes damages to the blood vessels in the retina, which can cause swelling, bleeding, abnormal blood vessel formation, and scarring in the retina. All these changes can cause permanent damage to the retina and decrease vision, leading to blindness in advanced cases. The most important treatment of diabetic retinopathy is tight control of the blood sugar. Regular dilated eye exams are essential in the early detection of any damages in the retina. Laser treatments may be indicated in certain cases to try to slow down the progression of the damage.
Posterior Vitreous Detachment
Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) is a common condition that causes the symptom of floaters. The floater is basically a clumping of the collagen substance in the back portion of the eye. While the floater itself is not harmful to the eye, the process of developing the floaters can cause retinal tears or even retinal detachment. It is important to have a complete dilated eye exam when new floaters are seen to ensure there is no problems with the retina. There is no good treatment to get rid of the floaters, but the brain tends to gradually ignore their presence with time.
Retinal Tear and Detachment
Retinal tear and detachment can lead to permanent vision loss if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Classic symptoms of retinal tear and detachment include flashes of light in the eye, prominent floaters, or a curtain-like shadow covering part of the vision. Many retinal detachment starts as a small tear in the retina. If a retina tear is diagnosed early enough, it can be treated with a laser procedure to prevent development of retinal detachment. If retinal detachment is present, you will be referred to a retinal specialist for urgent repair.
Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age related macular degeneration is the leading cause of central vision loss in patients over the age of 50 in the United States. It basically represents aging changes in the macula, which is the central part of the retina that is responsible for your central vision. Macular degeneration comes in two forms, dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is less aggressive and slowly progressive, but can still result in advanced damage to your vision. Wet macular degeneration is much more aggressive and can result in significant permanent vision loss if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Early changes of macular degeneration do not always come with symptoms, so it is essential to schedule a routine eye exam.
Dry eye syndrome is a very common condition that affects millions of patients and can cause a wide variety of chronic eye symptoms, which can include burning, itching, eye fatigue, redness, tearing, blurred vision, foreign body sensation, and eye pain. There are many different causes that contribute to dry eye syndrome and the treatment can vary depending on the exam findings. Although it can seem like a minor problem, dry eye syndrome that is untreated can cause permanent damage to the eyes. It is important to have a detailed eye exam to determine what treatment is best suited for the specific findings.
Blepharitis means inflammation of the eyelids. The Meibomian glands, or oil glands of the eyelids produce an essential layer to the tear film that keeps the tears from evaporating too quickly. Blepharitis causes dysfunction of the Meibomian gland and can lead to dry eye syndrome and eye irritation, redness, and crusting of the eyelashes. The treatment of this chronic condition relies tremendously on the patient. Warm compress and lid scrubs can help in most cases. In more advanced cases, medication eye drops or pills are needed to control the inflammation.
A pterygium is a wing shaped growth over the cornea of the eye, usually found towards the nose. It represents damage to the outside layer of the eye from harmful UV rays from sunlight exposure. Pterygium can progressively enlarge and cause symptoms of eye irritation, astigmatism, decreased vision, and chronic eye redness. Surgical excision is a good option for symptomatic cases. A specialized technique of excision is needed to prevent recurrence of the pterygium.
Keratoconus means cone shaped cornea. It affects 1/2000 of the population by gradually changing the shape of the cornea to an irregular cone shape. This irregular shape affects how the cornea refracts light and causes poor vision. The vision in early cases can be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. As the cone progresses, the increased irregularity becomes too significant for glasses or contact lenses to correct. The cone can be so severe that a contact lens will not stay on the eye. Surgical management of keratoconus involves intracorneal ring segments, or INTACS, and corneal transplantation. Recent advances in corneal collagen crosslinking under FDA investigation is an exciting new treatment for keratoconus that is on the horizon.
A chalazion, often mistakenly referred to as a stye, is a small, non-infectious bump that develops in the upper or lower eyelid due to blockage of the Meibomian gland. The Meibomian glands line the margins of our eyelids and produce the oily layer of our tear film that lubricates the eye. A chalazion can often be resolved with warm compression. Antibiotics generally do not help with a chalazion unless there is an associated infection. If the chalazion does not resolve with conservative treatments, a drainage procedure can be performed.