November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Watch Dr. Jacob Woldt, OD, explain the importance of eye exams especially for those diagnosed with diabetes.
The macula is a part of the retina in the back of the eye that ensures that our central vision is clear and sharp. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the arteries that nourish the retina harden. Deprived of nutrients, the retinal tissues begin to weaken and die, causing vision loss. Patients may experience anything from a blurry, gray or distorted area to a blind spot in the center of vision.
AMD is the number-one cause of vision loss in the U.S. Macular degeneration doesn’t cause total blindness because it doesn’t affect the peripheral vision. Possible risk factors include genetics, age, diet, smoking and sunlight exposure. Regular eye exams are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.
Symptoms of macular degeneration 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
There are two kinds of AMD: wet (neovascular/exudative) and dry (non-neovascular). About 10-15% of people with AMD have the wet form. “Neovascular” means “new vessels.” Accordingly, wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels grow into the retina as the eye attempts to compensate for the blocked arteries. These new vessels are very fragile, and often leak blood and fluid between the layers of the retina. Not only does this leakage distort vision, but when the blood dries, scar tissue forms on the retina as well. This creates a dark spot in the patient’s vision.
Dry AMD is much more common than wet AMD. Patients with this type of macular degeneration do not experience new vessel growth. Instead, symptoms include thinning of the retina, loss of retinal pigment and the formation of small, round particles inside the retina called drusen. Vision loss with dry AMD is slower and often less severe than with wet AMD.
Recent developments in ophthalmology allow doctors to treat many patients with early-stage AMD with the help of lasers and medication.
Presbyopia is a natural change in our eyes’ ability to focus. It occurs when the soft crystalline lens of the eye starts to harden. This loss of flexibility affects the lens’ ability to focus light in the eye, causing nearby objects to look blurry. Presbyopia happens to everyone starting in about our 40s or 50s — even in patients who have had laser vision correction.
The effects of presbyopia can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, including bifocals and multifocals; multifocal lens implantation, including CrystalensTM, ReZoom® and ReSTOR®; conventional surgery; and monovision LASIK. Laser surgeries such as conventional LASIK and PRK cannot correct presbyopia because they reshape the cornea rather than treat the lens.
Uveitis is an often chronic condition that involves inflammation of the uvea. The uvea is the middle layer of the eye, which contains the iris, ciliary body and choroid and is located between the retina and sclera (white of the eye). This condition is most common in patients between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, and may be caused by a viral, fungal or bacterial infection. In many cases of uveitis, the cause is unknown.
There are three different types of uveitis, classified by the area of the uvea that it affects:
- Anterior uveitis – inflammation of just the iris or the iris and ciliary body
- Intermediate uveitis – inflammation of the ciliary body
- Posterior uveitis – inflammation of the choroid
Patients with anterior uveitis, the most common type, are often only affected in one eye, and may experience mild to strong pain, redness, light sensitivity and blurred vision. Intermediate and posterior uveitis are usually painless and may cause blurred vision and floaters in both eyes.
Most cases of uveitis are treated through steroids in the form of eye drops, pills or injections to reduce inflammation in the eye.
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