Minor eye disorders are very common. Over half the Australian population uses some form of vision correction, and nearly everyone will require some vision correction at some time during their life.
In middle age, the lens of the eye becomes less flexible and less able to thicken, and thus less able to focus on nearby objects, a condition called presbyopia. Reading glasses, or bifocal lenses, can help compensate for this problem.
In old age, changes to the sclera (the white of the eyes) include yellowing or browning due to many years of exposure to ultraviolet light, wind, and dust; random splotches of pigment (more common in people with a dark complexion); and a bluish hue due to increased transparency of the sclera.
The most common eye disorders are:
- Glaucoma - a condition where the nerve cells that transmit information from the eye to the brain become damaged. The eye is normally filled with fluid that is constantly being replaced. If excessive amounts of fluid are produced or the eye cannot drain properly, pressure inside the eye builds up and causes damage to the optic nerve.
- Cataracts - a cloudiness or opacity of the lens of the eye. Cataracts commonly occur with advancing age, but can also occur at birth. They can be caused by exposure to intense heat or radiation and by infection, drugs, chemicals or physical injury to the eye. Blurred vision is an early symptom of cataracts as is sensitivity to glare, which causes hazy vision on bright sunny days. Frequent changing of eye glasses may indicate that cataracts are developing. Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts. The clouded lens is removed and replaced with a plastic lens implant
- Macular degeneration - This is the leading cause of vision loss among older people. It is the result of changes to the macula, the most sensitive part of the retina. The macula is used to see the fine detail when reading, writing, watching television and recognising faces. Central vision is distorted or affected, though peripheral (side) vision usually remains normal. If detected early, this condition can sometimes be treated with laser therapy. Early detection is the most important factor in determining whether macular degeneration can be treated
- Diabetic retinopathy - Diabetes interferes with the ability of the body to use and store glucose. Over time, diabetes may cause changes in the small blood vessels that nourish the retina. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, there may be blurring of both central and peripheral vision. In advanced stages scar tissue forms, causing an additional distortion and blurred vision
Signs & Symptoms:
Eye symptoms may involve changes in vision, changes in the appearance of the eye, or an abnormal sensation in the eye. Eye symptoms typically develop as a result of a problem in the eye but occasionally indicate a problem elsewhere in the body. For example, changes in vision may indicate a problem in the brain. Sometimes eye symptoms develop as part of an illness that affects several organ systems.
A person who experiences eye symptoms should be checked by a doctor. However, some eye diseases cause few or no symptoms in their early stages, so the eyes should be checked regularly (every 1 to 2 years or more frequently if there is an eye condition) by an ophthalmologist (a physician and surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases) or by an optometrist (a non-physician who specializes in refraction problems).
A person with eye or vision problems describes the location and duration of the symptoms, and then the doctor examines the eye, the area around it, and possibly other parts of the body, depending on the suspected cause. An eye examination usually includes refraction, a visual field testing, ophthalmoscopy, a slit lamp examination, and tonometry.
- Glaucoma - Early detection is important. Pressure can be lowered with drops or surgery
- Cataracts - Surgical removal and intra ocular lens implant. Spectacles may need to be altered as cataract progresses
- Macular Degeneration - In some cases antioxidant and vitamin supplements are used or an intra ocular injection may be used to improve macular function. Laser surgery is also an option
- Diabetic retinopathy - A healthy lifestyle for glucose level control. May require laser treatment or an intra ocular injection to prevent further blood vessel damage
All eye problems should be discussed with a qualified health professional, such as an optometrist