Untreated eye disease can lead to vision loss or even blindness. Regular comprehensive eye exams allow your optometrist to detect and track small changes in your vision that could be indicators of eye disease. Early detection and treatment are crucial, and may be able to slow or even prevent disease-related vision loss.
Unfortunately, many forms of eye disease don’t exhibit symptoms until you’ve already experienced permanent vision loss.
Your vision is precious; don’t risk it. Book your next appointment today.
Common Eye Diseases
Some eye diseases occur more frequently than others and can cause permanent vision loss or blindness if they’re allowed to progress.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a serious eye disease that causes the deterioration of the macula, the part of the retina used for focusing and colour vision. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in adults over 55 in North America. As AMD progresses, central vision is slowly lost.
There are two forms of AMD: dry and wet.
- Dry AMD is more common and is generally progresses more slowly than wet AMD. Dry AMD occurs when lipid deposits (called drusen) accumulate under the macula. Though there’s currently no cure for dry AMD, a large scale nutritional study (AREDS2) found that the progression of dry AMD can be slowed by consuming certain nutritional supplements and antioxidants including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc.
- Wet AMD is less common, and typically more serious than its dry counterpart. Wet AMD progresses more quickly and is more debilitating than dry AMD. Wet AMD causes your retina to grow new blood vessels beneath your macula. These vessels are weak, and typically leak blood and fluids, resulting in permanent damage. The progression of wet AMD can be slowed using intraocular injections.
Cataracts are a natural part of the ageing process, and occur when the proteins in our crystalline lenses become cloudy and opaque, obscuring our vision. Cataract symptoms include:
- Blurry or hazy vision
- Reduced colour vision
- Increased sensitivity to glare
Though the majority of us will develop cataracts at some point, factors such as UV exposure, diabetes, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption increase your chances of developing cataracts at a younger age.
If your cataracts minimally impact your vision, your optometrist may be able to suggest workarounds, such as using a magnifying aid and increased light to read small print, or wearing glasses treated with an anti-glare coating.
However, once your cataracts progress to the point where they begin obscuring your vision and prevent you from doing the things you enjoy, you may require cataract surgery. Cataract surgery involves replacing your cloudy natural lens with an artificial, permanently clear lens.
Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve becomes damaged, typically as a result of high pressure inside your eye. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual information from our eyes to our brain.
Glaucoma typically doesn’t exhibit symptoms until its later stages, when you’ve already suffered irreversible peripheral vision loss. The lack of early symptoms makes glaucoma particularly dangerous. According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada.
Glaucoma is treatable, but early detection is vital. That’s why all comprehensive eye exams performed at Dorchester Optometry include glaucoma testing. We use a variety of tests to detect glaucoma, including Goldmann Applanation Tonometry, Non-Contact Tonometry (the air puff test), visual field testing, and optical coherence tomography (OCT).
Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as “pink eye”, occurs when the thin, transparent membrane that covers the white of the eye (the conjunctiva) becomes irritated and inflamed. The delicate conjunctival blood vessels in our eyes dilate, causing our eyes to become red and bloodshot, giving pink eye its name.
Conjunctivitis has three main forms: allergic, bacterial, and viral
- Allergic conjunctivitis is triggered by allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet dander. It’s not contagious and can be controlled using antihistamines.
- Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection and requires antibiotic treatment. It’s highly contagious, so you should stay home from school or work until your symptoms have cleared up.
- Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a viral infection and, like the common cold, usually doesn’t require treatment. However, viral conjunctivitis is contagious, so you should stay home and avoid crowds to prevent it from spreading.
If you suspect that you have conjunctivitis, you should make an appointment with your optometrist as soon as possible. Avoid wearing your contact lenses until it has fully cleared up.
Most floaters are completely harmless and are just tiny pieces of protein floating around in the vitreous (the clear, gel-like fluid) that fills the inside of our eyes. As we age, the vitreous becomes less viscous. This allows the floaters to move around more freely and makes them more noticeable.
However, while most floaters are no cause for concern, sudden flashes of light followed by a shower of floaters could mean that you’re experiencing a retinal tear or retinal detachment. A retinal detachment is a serious condition that can lead to permanent vision loss if it isn’t treated quickly.