Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is one of the leading causes of blindness for older adults. This condition is caused by degeneration to the macula, which is the area on the retina responsible for good central “20/20” vision. AMD results in the gradual loss of central vision due to this progressive damage to the retina. Those who are affected by macular degeneration may have difficulty reading or recognizing faces. However, the peripheral vision is unaffected in AMD, so most people with the disease are still able to live independently and perform their daily activities.
Macular degeneration comes in two forms: dry or wet. In the dry form, vision changes occur due to damage and atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelial layer, located below the retinal tissue. This damage results in dysfunction of the photoreceptors, known as rods and cones, and causes visual distortions or even blind spots. The advanced wet form of AMD causes abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the retina. These abnormal vessels result in bleeding, leakage, and swelling of the macula which can ultimately cause irreversible scarring and vision loss. The wet form of AMD is much less common, with only about 10% of patients developing these complications.
Glaucoma is commonly referred to as the “silent eye disease” because it progresses slowly with very few symptoms. It is the result of progressive damage to the optic nerve, which slowly affects the visual field and can cause permanent loss of peripheral vision. If glaucoma is undetected and untreated, the symptoms of peripheral vision loss are not noticeable until it is too late and significant irreversible vision loss has occurred. For this reason, regular eye exams are imperative for the proper detection, diagnosis, and management of glaucoma. Our doctors can identify the warning signs of glaucoma during a routine eye exam.
Treatment for glaucoma typically begins with topical eye drops, which help control the pressure inside the eye. Other treatment options include laser procedures or surgical options, though these are usually reserved for more severe cases of glaucoma. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, it is important to work closely with your doctor to determine which treatment option is best for you.
Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetes is becoming one of the most common medical conditions among American adults. More and more individuals are being diagnosed with this condition, which means more people are at risk for being affected by diabetic retinopathy, a sight-threatening effect of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can result in permanent damage to retinal tissue and is one of the most common causes of blindness in adults. Proper diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can reduce the risk of permanent vision loss and can help maintain proper eye health.
Over time, diabetes causes damage to blood vessels throughout the body. The first blood vessels to be affected are small fragile vessels, which puts the delicate retinal vessels at high risk for diabetic-related damage. Through a dilated retinal health evaluation, diabetic retinopathy can be detected by identifying damage to retinal blood vessels.
The severity of diabetic retinopathy can range from mild to vision-threatening. In early mild diabetic retinopathy, there may small hemorrhages or protein deposits throughout the retina due to small areas of vessels damage. In more serious forms of the condition, decreased blood flow to the retina can result in areas of ischemia, or leakage of blood and proteins can cause retinal swelling. Significant vision changes can occur if these signs of diabetic retinopathy occur in the macula, and if these changes are not addressed permanent retinal damage can occur. In the most severe form of diabetic retinopathy, the retina attempts to remediate blood flow by creating new weak vessels. These new vessels are prone to leakage and can result in significant vision problems, ranging from a retinal detachment to a hemorrhage that completely obscures vision. In a comprehensive eye examination, your eye doctor can detect changes due to diabetes and can help with the treatment and management of this condition before significant vision loss occurs.
The development of cataracts is a normal age-related change that occurs when the crystalline lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. This cloudiness is a result of the accumulation over time of proteins, water, and free radicals in the once-clear lens. When the lens is significantly cloudy, vision can become blurry, color perception can be affected, and problems might arise with seeing glare or haloes around lights. When vision is significantly affected, or cataracts cause a negative impact on daily activities, then the cataracts can be easily treated with a routine cataract-removal surgery. Our eye doctors can monitor cataracts and suggest when it may be time for a surgical consultation.
Dry Eye Disease
Dry eye disease is an increasingly common eye condition that causes discomfort, which ranges from mildly annoying to burdensome. The condition can also negatively impact vision. Dry eye disease occurs when not enough tears are being produced to properly lubricate the eyes, or when the tear film is a poor quality and is unable to keep the ocular surface comfortable. Symptoms of dry eye disease can include the eyes feeling gritty or itchy, burning, redness, watering, or feeling like there is “something in the eye.” Risk factors can include age, female gender, smoking, and concurrent systemic diseases.
If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye disease, our doctors can address your complaints through a comprehensive eye examination. To do this, they will obtain a thorough medical history and perform an ocular health evaluation using a high-powered microscope. They may also perform additional tests to determine the amount of tears you are producing, or to test the quality of tears by timing the evaporation rate. If they identify the presence of dry eye disease, the doctor will make specialized recommendations to address your symptoms and improve the health of your ocular surface.