Glaucoma is a condition which damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the part of the eye that transmits signals from the eye to the brain. In most cases a person would not be aware that they have glaucoma. It normally occurs without causing any pain. This is because glaucoma generally affects peripheral (side) vision first.
When you go to your optometrist for an eye examination, you will be assessed for signs of glaucoma. There are a number of checks the optometrist may use to do this:
1. Examining the back of the eye for signs of damage to the optic nerve.
2. Measuring "Intra-Ocular Pressure" (puff of air test).
3. Assessing the peripheral vision with a Visual Field test.
Glaucoma can affect anyone regardless of age or general health. However, people who are over 40 years of age are at a higher risk of developing the disease, as are those with a family history of the condition.
Glaucoma can be treated with the use of drops and/or minor surgery. Any damage that has been done to vision cannot be repaired, but treatment can prevent further damage from occurring. This is why it is very important that the condition be detected at an early stage.
Early detection is vital. Thus, anyone aged 40 or over should have an eye examination every two years. If you are in a higher risk group, you mayneed more regular checks.
Age Related macular Degeneration (ARMD)
Age Related macular Degeneration (ARMD), commonly known to patients as "wear and tear" of the retina, is the most common cause of visual loss in the elderly. It affects the macular region of the retina, which is the area that gives us the clear straight ahead vision necessary for functioning in everyday life.
Aging causes the cells in the retina to become less efficient.
There are two types of ARMD:
- Dry ARMD - The dry form of the macular degeneration is by far the most common. It is slow to progress. Symptoms include a gradual loss of detail vision.
- Wet ARMD - The wet form is more visually damaging, however, much more rare than the dry form.
- Positive family history of ARMD.
- Smoking - 2.5 times greater chance of developing ARMD than non-smokers.
- Nutrition -see below.
- UV light exposure increases risk of development of ARMD.
A patient with ARMD may be aware of some of the following:
- Straight lines look wavy.
- Distinct shapes are blurry.
- Colours look dim.
- Words appear blurred or difficult to read.
- Dark or blank areas block the centre of your vision.
- There appears to be a fog in the centre of your vision.
Modern treatment methods include anti-vEGF therapy(Lucentis/Avastin) for wet ARMD, while dietary supplements such as Macushield/Lutein are regarded as beneficial for dry ARMD.
As a person ages, the lens of the eye (that controls focusing) can become cloudy.
This dims the vision, kind of like looking out of a dirty window. There are many different types of cataracts depending on the part of the lens effected and the underlying cause (i.e.: age, injury or health problems, such as diabetes). Not all types of cataract are the same and not all will develop in a similar manner.
Cataracts can be treated by means of a procedure which is usually carried out under local anaesthetic as an out patient minor surgery in a hospital. When to treat a cataract is a decision for the eye specialist (ophthalmologist) but your optometrist will advise you if/when you will need to consult an ophthalmologist.
Myopia is the proper name for short-sight. A short-sighted person will generally see better for closer objects and be blurred for things far away. The shape of the eye is basically too big for the eye's focusing power.
Hyperopia/Hypermetropia is the proper name for long-sight. A long-sighted person will generally see better for things far away and be blurred for closer objects. The shape of the eye is basically too small for the eye's focusing power.
Despite its fearsome sounding name, astigmatism is just an unusual shape of the eye, similar to long or short-sight. The eye is more egg or rugby ball shaped in astigmatism rather than being round shaped like a football, as in a "normal" eye.
Reading problems (Presbyopia)
Presbyopia is the proper name for reading problems associated with age. As we get older and pass the 40+ age bracket, reading and close-work become more difficult.
This is entirely natural and no cause for alarm. However, if near problems are noticed, then you may benefit from reading glasses. A visit to your optometrist will put your mind at rest.
Flashes and Floaters
Many people complain of cobwebs or spots floating randomly in their vision. There are many different types reported. They usually are more noticeable against a pale background e.g.: against the ceiling in the morning.
However, they are usually harmless. In a very small number of cases, the floaters can be indicative of a more serious problem. If so, the floaters are usually accompanied by flashes. If you notice these symptoms, especially flashes and floaters together, then you should consult an eye practitioner as soon as possible.