Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is characterized by the loss of central vision. It is the leading cause of blindness in people over 65 in the U.S. When you lose your central vision your peripheral vision still works fine, but you cannot see straight ahead. Faces become obscured and reading becomes difficult or impossible.

What is Macular Degeneration?
It is progressive damage to the macula of the eye. The macula is the center of the retina. When AMD becomes advanced abnormal blood vessels can form under the macula causing rapid deterioration of vision.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

  • Shadows, dark spots, or empty spots in the center of your vision
  • Color distortion or faded colors
  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • Lines or text appearing wavy
  • Needing very bright light for close vision such as when reading or sewing
  • Difficulty adapting to low light

If you experience these symptoms you should talk to your ophthalmologist right away. Most AMD progresses slowly, but the symptoms of AMD can also be symptoms of other retinal problems, or wet macular degeneration which can rob you of your vision very quickly if left untreated.

AMD Treatment and Prevention
Generally, AMD treatment stops or slows the progression, preserving the eyesight you have left. The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of retaining your vision.

Nutritional support is used in the early stages. Some patients even report an improvement in vision. The same eye-healthy nutrients used to treat AMD can also prevent its development.

When AMD is advanced, some drugs can prevent the formation of abnormal blood vessels and the severe and rapid vision loss that they cause.

To save your eyesight, please contact a qualified eye doctor in your area today if you are experiencing the symptoms of AMD.

The Retina

Every part of your eye is important for good vision, but if you had to rank them in order of importance the retina and optic nerve would tie for first place. The retina is truly amazing. Unlike the lens and cornea, it cannot be replaced if irreparably damaged. In some cases, damage can be repaired, and we are learning more every day about healing the retina, but retinal damage continues to be a cause of permanent vision loss.

The retina is the back wall of the eye. Light that passes into your eye is focused on the retina. It is densely paced with light sensitive cells. Those cells convert the light energy to nerve energy and send the image to the brain via nerve fibers.

So far, there have been three types of light-sensitive cells identified in the retina:

  • Rods for vision in dim light
  • Cones for color vision and vision in bright light
  • Ganglion which tell your body if the sun is rising or setting, playing a role in the circadian rhythm which determines sleep/wakefulness patterns

The Macula
The macula is in the middle of the retina and is responsible for picking up and communicating the finest details of an image along with the center vision needed for tasks such as driving and reading. Macular degeneration robs you of your center vision because it affects the macula.

Macular edema is swelling and/or thickening of the macula. The distorted macula can relay a distorted or blurry image.

Problems of the macula, including macular degeneration, often make straight lines or text appear wavy. More severe problems can cause a dark or missing spot in the center of your vision.

Conditions of the retina are serious and need immediate attention. If you are experiencing problems with your central vision, please contact an experienced ophthalmologist and schedule and exam right away.

Cataracts

Have you started noticing your vision growing blurry, colors that seem faded and increased glare when driving at night? If so, you might be developing cataracts. Cataracts are a common age-related vision problem, and one of the leading causes of blindness in older people in the U.S. Cataracts can be treated.

What are Cataracts?
The lens of your eye should be clear. As cataracts develop they cause cloudiness of the lens. They occur as the proteins in the lens clump together. At first this just scatters the light that passes through, causing vision to be blurry and causing problems such as glare. As cataracts progress they cause the lens to become more and more opaque, eventually leading to blindness if not treated.

Diet, Lifestyle, and Cataracts
Diet and lifestyle choices can help prevent cataracts or slow the progression even after symptoms have begun. Protecting your eyes from sun damage and eating a diet rich in eye-healthy nutrients will reduce your risk of developing cataracts and other vision destroying eye conditions.

Treating Cataracts
You may have heard people talk about getting their cataracts “removed.” Cataracts cannot actually be removed from the lens of the eye, but the lens can be replaced with an artificial lens called an Intraocular Lens (IOL). When the lens is replaced, cataracts do not return.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of cataracts, it is worth your while to talk to an eye doctor right away. You do not have to wait until your vision is severely impaired to undergo cataract treatment.

Contact Lens Risks

When used properly, contact lenses are very safe. However, they still carry a risk of complications, most of which are minor or easily resolved, but some can permanently damage your eyes. Irritation, dry eyes, and infections are the most common problems that people experience with their contacts. Learning to properly wear and care for them will go a long way toward minimizing contact lens risks and preventing complications.

Some Problems That May be Caused by Contact Lenses

  • Infections
  • Scratches or abrasions on the cornea
  • Inflammation of the eye or eyelid
  • Allergic reaction to contact lens solutions
  • Swelling and hazy vision caused by lack of oxygen to the cornea
  • Change in the shape of your cornea
  • Dry eyes
  • Irritation and discomfort

If you are experiencing irritation with your contacts, talk to your eye doctor. Take your lenses out and do not try to wear them again until you have seen your ophthalmologist and had the lenses examined.

A few people simply cannot wear contacts comfortably, but in many cases a change in the type of lens can solve the problem. You may need to change the type of contact solution you use, or there may be a problem with the lens itself, such as a defect or protein deposit.

To avoid infections and other complications, always follow your eye doctor’s instructions for wearing your contacts, such as taking them out while you sleep. Above all, cleanliness is key.

If you are tired of wearing contact lenses or believe it is time for a change, please contact a qualified eye doctor in your area today to learn more about your vision correction options.

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Child Eye Care

We tend to think of declining vision as a problem of aging, and therefore overlook early signs of vision problems in children. However, refractive errors, such as nearsightedness (myopia), often begin in childhood. Because children’s eyes and brains are still developing, untreated vision problems in early childhood can lead to permanent vision loss. Unrecognized vision problems can severely hinder a child’s progress in school. Child eye care is an important part of your child’s overall health care.

Problems That May Be Reversed
Crossed eyes (strabismus) and lazy eye (amblyopia) are treatable. Left untreated they can lead to permanent vision loss. When the images from the eyes are not the same, the brain automatically chooses the best image and ignores the bad image. When your child’s brain is still developing, ignoring one eye interferes with the development of the brain’s ability to use that eye.

Refractive Error
Nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism in children are corrected with glasses. Unfortunately, LASIK and other refractive surgeries are not an option because children’s vision does not stabilize until they have finished growing.

Regular eye exams are very important for children. Undetected vision problems can mimic learning disabilities or show up as behavioral problems.

Protecting Your Child’s Eyes
Protection from sun damage is especially important for children. Their eyes cannot block out damaging UV rays as well as adult eyes. Every time your child goes outside he should be wearing UV protective lenses. Damage to the lens of the eye does not go away.

Do not forget to find appropriate eye protection for whatever sports your child engages in as well.

If your child has not had an eye exam recently, please talk to an eye doctor near you and make an appointment today.

Diabetes and the Eyes

One of the unfortunate complications of diabetes is the damage that it can do to your eyes. High blood sugar levels are the culprit. Keeping your diabetes under control goes a long way toward staving off eye diseases and vision loss, but most diabetics will experience some problems after 15 years of living with the disease. Some of the eye diseases caused by diabetes, such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, do not produce symptoms before causing significant damage. Regular eye exams can catch these conditions in time to treat them before vision loss sets in.

Diabetic Retinopathy
Nearly half of all diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar damages blood vessels. In diabetic retinopathy the capillaries in the eyes are damaged. They can swell up, leak fluid, or close off. Leaking vessels can cause swelling in the center of the retina (macula) distorting vision and causing vision loss.

When the vessels are closed off, your eyes are robbed of oxygen and nutrients so your body tries to compensate for the problem by creating new ones. That may sound like a good idea, but the new vessels cause scar tissue to form. The scar tissue distorts the retina and can cause retinal detachment.

Glaucoma
Glaucoma usually involves elevated intraocular pressure. High blood sugar can damage cells in the part of the eye that allows fluid to flow out. When these cells are damaged pressure builds up inside of the eye causing damage to the optic nerve.

Cataracts
Major fluctuations in blood sugar can cause the lens of the eye to swell. When this happens enough it can damage the lens causing cataracts.

If you have diabetes please schedule an eye exam with an ophthalmologist in your area today.