As the saying goes “prevention is the best medicine,” but when it comes to your eyes there are a lot of diseases that can only be detected with a thorough eye exam. Taking an active role in seeing an eye doctor annually is the first step in prevention and detection. Below are some signs and symptoms of common eye problems.
Most people who need glasses or contacts are accustomed to seeing an eye doctor every year, but there are those people who seemed to always have good vision until one day they have trouble reading. This is something called presbyopia (aging eyes) and happens around age 40. The lens in the eye stops adjusting naturally so almost everyone at some point will need reading glasses.
One of the biggest misconceptions about cataracts is that it is a disease and something that doesn’t occur until people are in their 80s or later. A cataract is the lens inside the eye becoming cloudy and it starts to occur in individuals in their 40s. As the lens ages it continues to get cloudy and eventually reaches a point that vision is affected and cataract surgery is necessary, but when this occurs varies for everyone.
Glaucoma is a disease where the pressure inside the eye is high enough that the nerve in the back of the eye becomes damaged. The optic nerve is the cable that takes the signal from the eye to the brain. People who have glaucoma lose peripheral vision very gradually. Because there are no symptoms until very late in the disease it can only be detected by an eye exam.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
This retinal disease affects the macula, which is the part of the retina (lining in the back of the eye) that gives us 20/20 vision. As the name implies this occurs in people that are older and is more likely in those with a strong family history. Early stages can be detected on a routine dilated exam at the eye doctor.
Floaters, known as vitreous detachments, occur when the vitreous or jelly-like substance in the back of the eye shrinks. This is most common with age, but can occur in very near-sighted people or after trauma. It is very common, but important to get an eye exam because it can occasionally lead to retinal holes, tears or detachments.
- Can I take vitamins to improve my eye health? While there is a vitamin supplement shown to prevent progression of macular degeneration in people with early stages of the disease it has not been shown to make any difference in people without the disease. Having a balanced diet with lots of vegetables is the best plan for ocular and overall health.
- Can I feel if my eye pressure is high? Like blood pressure, if your eye pressure is high you will have no symptoms unless it is extremely high, which may cause nausea, vomiting and headaches. This is very rare and is a true ocular emergency.
- Cataract surgery is really no big deal so are there any risks? Surgery is still surgery and although most cataract surgery is “routine” there are risks to any procedure. The likelihood of those complications can be determined by your eye doctor as certain conditions and very advanced cataracts increase your risk.
- I’ve heard a lot about LASIK and am interested so am I a candidate? The only way to determine this is to have a thorough eye exam and specific scans of your eyes. While most people in glasses or contacts are good candidates the exam and testing is necessary to know for sure.
- Don’t I only need to go to an eye doctor if my vision is blurry? It is important to see an eye doctor to detect diseases early that may have no symptoms. There are also conditions like diabetes that can affect your eyes and may need to be treated.
- Who is at risk for glaucoma? The best known risk factors are increased age, family history, African American ethnicity, and increased eye pressure.
- My eyes water a lot and I was told I have dry eyes so how does that make sense? Watering is a very common dry eye symptom. As the eyes get dry the brain tries to get more tears made so the eyes get flooded with tears. These, however, are not good quality tears and means the dry eyes need to be treated by various means including artificial tears, warm compresses, prescription drops and/or plugs in the drainage system. A thorough eye exam and your eye doctor can determine the best treatment plan.
If you have questions about your eye health, request an appointment today.