Most Common Eye Conditions

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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of your eye, which is called the macula. The macula is a tiny area of your retina about the size of a pinhead which is very important for seeing detail, colour and things directly in front of you. There are two kinds of AMD – wet and dry.

AMD causes problems with your central vision, but does not lead to total loss of sight and is not painful.  The condition is more common in people over the age of 65 although it can develop in people who are in their 40’s and 50’s.

Symptoms the first problems people usually notice are they are unable to see small detail and have difficulty reading small print, even when wearing their usual reading glasses. Things may look an unusual shape and straight lines may appear wavy. This may happen quickly or develop over several months. People may only notice these changes in one eye.

If you have any of these symptoms you should see your Optometrist (Optician) or GP.

If your sight changes very quickly you can attend the Accident and Emergency department at your local hospital.

Cause the exact cause is not known at the moment, however some things are thought to increase your chances of developing AMD.  It is most often seen in people over the age of 65; some genes have been identified which seem to be linked to the development of AMD in some people; smoking greatly increases your risk of developing AMD.

Stopping smoking and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables may help to keep your eyes healthy.

Treatment there is a number of different treatments for wet AMD unfortunately there is not treatment for dry at this time although a considerable amount of research is ongoing in this area.

Cataracts most people over the age of 65 have some changes in their lens and most of us will develop a cataract in time.

Symptoms cataracts usually develop slowly, you may feel your sight isn’t quite right for example if your wear glasses you may feel that your lenses are dirty even when they’re clean.  You may find your sight becomes cloudier, edges of stairs or steps become more difficult to see and you may feel you need a lot more light to read smaller print; bright lights may seem to glare and car headlights dazzle you more than they used to; colours may look different when you compare one eye with the other – things may appear more yellow than before.

Cause apart from getting older, the other common causes of cataract include diabetes, trauma, medications such as steroids, eye surgery for other eye conditions and other eye conditions. Ongoing research suggests that tobacco smoking; lifelong exposure to sunlight and having a poor diet lacking antioxidant vitamins may also be factors.

If you notice any of these changes, you should have your eyes tested by an optometrist (optician) who will be able to tell you whether you have a cataract or not.

Treatment most cataracts can be treated successfully by a simple operation.

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions which cause optic nerve damage and can affect your vision.  It is more common as we get older and is unlikely to affect people under the age of 40. It can be hereditary and people over the age of 40 with an immediate family member diagnosed with Glaucoma are entitled to a free sight test every year.

Symptoms there are often no symptoms in the early stages; people may notice reduced vision at night and/or a loss of vision in the shape of an arc a little above and/or below the centre of the eye.

If you notice any of these changes or have a close family who has Glaucoma you should visit your Optometrist.

Cause several things increase your risk of developing glaucoma, your age, it becomes more common as you grow older Your race: if you are of African origin you are more at risk and it is also more likely to develop at an earlier age and be more severe; family, you are at higher risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative who has chronic glaucoma; if you are short sighted you have a higher risk of developing chronic glaucoma; you have an increased risk of developing glaucoma if you have diabetes.

Treatment there are different treatments depending upon the type of glaucoma, often damage caused by glaucoma can be prevented simply using eye drops, all treatments aim to prevent further damage to your sight, however, treatment cannot repair or improve damage that may have already by caused before the condition was found.

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is the name given to a diverse group of inherited eye disorders. These eye conditions affect a part of your eye called the retina.

Symptoms RP causes permanent changes to your vision but how quickly this happens and how it changes differs between people. These changes may include difficulty with vision in dim light or the dark and the loss of your side or peripheral vision.  Sight loss is usually gradual but progresses over a period of many years. Some people with RP might become blind but most people with RP keep some useful vision well into old age.  One of the most common symptoms is difficulty seeing in poor light e.g. outside at dusk often referred to as loss of night vision, or a dimly lit room, there may be a loss of sight from the sides, above and below, often referred to as tunnel vision. 

Treatment Currently there is no treatment for RP. Ongoing research is looking at gene therapy, stem cell therapy and nutrition.

Diabetic Related Eye Conditions diabetic maculopathy affecting the macula, diabetic retinopathy and may experience loss of central vision, people may also develop glaucoma and cataracts.

Symptoms although your vision may be good, changes can be taking place in your retina that need treatment. Most sight loss due to diabetes is preventable if treatment is given early. The earlier the treatment is given the more effective it is. 

Treatment it may be possible to treat some symptoms of diabetic eye disease such as resulting glaucoma and cataracts however early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is vital.

  • Attend your annual diabetic eye screening appointment.
  • Don’t wait until your vision has deteriorated to have an eye test.
  • Speak to your diabetic eye clinic if you notice changes to your vision.
  • Most sight-threatening diabetic problems can be managed by laser treatment if it is done early enough.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or express fears about your treatment.
  • Good control of sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol reduces the risk of diabetes-related sight loss.
  • Attend your diabetic clinic or GP surgery for regular diabetes health checks, including blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring.
  • Smoking increases your risk of diabetes-related sight loss. Your GP can tell you about NHS stop smoking services in your area

If you would like advice and information about any of these conditions or about a condition that is not mentioned please contact Blackburn and District Blind Society.