Taking care of your eyes involves not overlooking certain warning signs, because early detection and treatment can prevent serious problems. Here is an overview of symptoms to take seriously and some of the most common eye diseases.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in Canadian seniors. This age-related disease affects the macula, the central part of the retina that provides precision vision and allows people to perform detailed tasks. When the macula is damaged, precision vision diminishes and may even disappear. However, peripheral vision is not compromised, so the disease does not usually lead to a complete loss of vision.
It is known that macular degeneration occurs mainly in people over the age of 50. The causes are still relatively unknown. People who are Caucasian, who have close relatives affected by the disease, or who smoke are more at risk of developing it.
Decreased vision when reading, writing or driving is one of the first symptoms of macular degeneration. Colour perception may also be impaired.
Glaucoma is characterized by damage to the optic nerve. It is often caused by high pressure inside the eye, but sometimes occurs in people with normal pressure.
Although the causes of glaucoma are unknown, there are certain factors that increase the risk. Age, a close family member affected by it, nearsightedness, being of African or Hispanic origin, and high pressure inside the eye may contribute to the development of the disease.
There are several types of glaucoma. Initially, the most common is usually painless and does not cause any immediate symptoms. Without treatment, there will eventually be a loss of visual field, which is everything the eye can see to the side, down or up when looking straight ahead. Vision then becomes like looking through a tunnel.
Cataracts is a disease that affects the crystalline, the main lens of the eye. The crystalline is located in the front part of the eye, it directs light to the retina, which is at the back, to form the images we see. When the crystalline becomes cloudy or opaque, near and far vision is impaired, and this is called cataracts. Cataracts can affect the crystalline lens in part or in its entirety.
In most cases, a cataract is the result of aging. Other factors can also cause a cataract, such as diabetes, an eye injury, or certain medications.
In general, a cataract is caused by aging and progresses slowly. There is usually a progressive decrease in vision despite having changed an eyeglass prescription. In the presence of bright light, glare and double vision have also been noted.
Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is responsible for this damage in people with diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness in North America and one of the common complications of diabetes.
All patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk. This is why anyone with diabetes should have an annual eye exam.
Symptoms appear gradually as the disease progresses. They may include blurred, distorted or double vision, dark spots or specks that move across the visual field, or fluctuating vision.
When to consult an eye care specialist or doctor?
You should see an eye care specialist routinely, even if you don't have specific symptoms. That said, it is even more important to seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:
- you have difficulty driving
- you notice blurred vision, or you need more light than usual to read, do crafts or perform other tasks
- you have distorted or double vision
- you see dark spots, circles, lines or cobwebs that move across your visual field
- you experience glare or see halos around lights
- you notice other unusual symptoms
Consult an eye care specialist, doctor or pharmacist for additional information about eye diseases.