A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It is caused by the hardening of the lens inside the eye, causing a gradual loss of vision.
Most cataracts develop as part of the ageing process. Cataracts tend to affect people aged over 65, but the age of onset can vary. Some people aren’t affected until well into their 70s, while some develop cataracts at an earlier age. In fact, by the age of 80 most of us will have some degree of cataract formation. Other risk factors include long-term exposure to sunlight, smoking, diabetes and family history.
Clouded, blurred or dim vision are the most common symptoms of cataracts. Many people don’t notice any changes early on, but as the cataracts progress they start to experience vision problems. Often people describe the quality of their vision as like looking through a dirty window. One of the other common signs is a sensitivity to glare, especially on a bright sunny day or when driving at night on artificially lit roads. Frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescriptions can also be a sign of cataracts.
A change to your spectacle prescription may help to keep cataract symptoms at bay for a time. However, for the best results the removal of cataracts through a surgical procedure is often recommended. The surgical procedure is straightforward and is usually performed under a local anaesthetic. In the absence of any other eye conditions the resulting vision is significantly improved in most cases.
There is not much you can do to stop the formation of cataracts. Regular eye examinations with your optometrist, especially for those over the age of 65, can help to identify any changes as early as possible.
About 7% of Australians have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. This number rises dramatically as we age. About 20% of all people over the age of 75 have diabetes. Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes and more than 60% of those with type 2 diabetes will develop some form of diabetic eye disease within 20 years of diagnosis. Within 15 years of diagnosis, most of these people (more than 70 per cent) will go on to experience changes in their eyes.
People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing eye complications which, if left untreated, can lead to poor vision and blindness. Because diabetes is a disease of the circulatory system – the body’s system of blood vessels – and the eyes are home to a complex network of blood vessels, high blood sugar levels can cause damage. The good news is that 98 per cent of serious vision loss can be prevented with regular eye examinations and early treatment.
Regular consultations with an optometrist or eye specialist (ideally every year but at least once every 2 years) should be an essential element of every diabetic’s management plan. Identifying conditions early may mean that any treatment required is more effective in limiting any damage that could otherwise occur.
Persistently high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of serious eye conditions in people with diabetes, including cataracts, glaucoma and macular oedema. Diabetic Retinopathy is, however, the most common ocular condition caused by diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy affects the retina of the eye (the light sensitive portion at the back of the eye) and is characterised by damage to the small blood vessels that nourish the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive disease and the better the blood sugar control of the diabetic, the less likely the disease is to progress. However, anyone who has diabetes (type 1 or type 2) can develop diabetic retinopathy, even if blood sugar is well-controlled. This is an important reason why diabetics should have regular eye examinations from the time they are diagnosed.
These diabetes-related eye complications often have no signs or symptoms and there may be no obvious vision troubles until the condition is quite advanced. To monitor your eye health and identify symptoms of diabetes before they become serious, regular eye examinations are recommended, usually every 1 to 2 years. The examination will often involve dilation of the pupils of the eyes with eyedrops, to ensure your optometrist gains the best view of your retina.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and complying with medication requirements and medical check-ups will help to keep your blood sugar levels under control and in turn look after your eye health.
Dry eye is a common condition, where there are not enough tears to lubricate the surface of the eye, or the tears are of poor quality. Tears are important in maintaining the health of the cornea & conjunctiva of the eyes, and for providing clear vision. Most of the time the condition is more annoying than severe, but the discomfort can vary from mild to debilitating, and in severe cases dry eye can damage the front surface of the eye, leading to permanent scarring. People with dry eyes may experience symptoms including:
Dry Eyes can have many causes, including:
Dry eye is increasingly common among people who spend a lot of time in front of screens, smartphones, Ipads, etc.
Unfortunately, dry eye is a chronic condition with no cure, but there are a range of treatments that can help ease the symptoms. If the source of the problem is dry air, turning down the air-conditioner and heater and staying out of the wind can reduce tear evaporation. Turning off your devices is an obvious antidote to screen time and making a conscious effort to blink more often can also help.
An optometrist can diagnose dry eye and advice the best treatment regime. For some people over-the-counter eye drops, ointments and sprays are the most effective dry eye treatments. For others different or additional treatment options may be recommended, including heat and steam goggles, lid wipes, or prescribed eyedrops.
While dry eye isn’t usually a serious condition, it can have a significant impact on our daily lives, so it is important to seek help if you are experiencing any symptoms.
Glaucoma is a complex disease of the optic nerve. It is a degenerative disorder, and in its most severe form can cause tunnel vision or even blindness.
In Australia there are more than 300,000 people with glaucoma. The more alarming statistic is that 50% of these cases are undiagnosed. Anybody can have glaucoma, no matter if you are young, old or in between. The risk of glaucoma increases with age – by the age of 40 there will be 1 in 200 Australians with glaucoma, and by the age of 80 there will be 1 in 8. If you have a direct family member with glaucoma you are up to 10 times more likely to have the disease at some time in your life.
Glaucoma is often called the ‘thief of sight’. This is because in the early stages of the disease there are virtually no signs or symptoms, and significant damage to the optic nerve and vision can occur before signs or symptoms develop. Early detection is the key to slowing the progress of the disease, and the best method of early detection is to ensure you and your family members have regular eye tests with your optometrist.
Although anyone can get glaucoma, some people are higher risk. Risk factors include:
Ask your optometrist if you have any questions regarding glaucoma or any other eye care or eye health topics.
Macular Degeneration is an insidious disease, usually age-related, and is generally able to be detected, if present, in an eye examination.
The macula is the central part of the retina, in the back of the eye. It is the part of the retina responsible for central vision. It allows us to detect detail, to see to be able to read and write. When we focus on something, the image is formed on the macula. It is the key to normal, everyday visual function.
Macular degeneration (MD) is a progressive disorder, usually age-related. It causes damage to the macula, which results in loss of central vision. The peripheral vision is unaffected. There are 2 types of MD, wet and dry. The wet type causes a sudden loss in central vision, whereas the dry type causes a more gradual loss.
Risk factors for Macular Degeneration include:
Early detection is vital. Regular eye examinations are important for the detection of many eye disorders, including macular degeneration. You may not notice early symptoms, but these can usually be detected by your optometrist. An examination every 2 years is recommended, more often for those at increased risk.
Please see your optometrist if you have any questions relating to macular degeneration, or any eye or vision disorders.
Reference:Macular Disease Foundation Australia https://mdfoundation.com.au/