The eye is a complex organ. Consisting of the cornea, tear ducts, optic nerve, lens, retina, iris and pupil; with so many working parts, it’s understandable that many things can go wrong, especially as we age. Below are the top 5 eye conditions we experience, especially living here in Ottawa.
1. REFRACTIVE ERRORS
The National Eye Institute tells us that refractive errors are the most common cause of vision problems. Changes in the shape of your cornea as well as the natural aging of the lens cause errors when light passes through the cornea. Both farsightedness and nearsightedness are refractive errors, as is an astigmatism.
TREATMENT: Eyeglasses/contact lenses are the most common forms of treatment, along with surgery.
2. MACULAR DEGENERATION
Risk factors for Macular Degeneration include a family history of the disease, female gender, age, and smoking. It’s characterized by damage to the macula, that’s the part of the retina that perceives light. Age related macular degeneration is the most common reason for blindness in people over 65.
TREATMENT: Unfortunately there is no cure for Macular Degeneration, there are however, treatments that will slow it’s progression. Anti-angiogenic drugs are injected into the eye to block the development of new blood vessels. Laser therapy can destroy actively growing blood vessels deemed abnormal. Finally, vitamins C, E, zinc, copper and beta-carotene can decrease the risk of related vision loss.
Common in people over 50, cataracts can happen at any age (even at birth). They’re characterized by a cloudy, sometimes yellowish lens. Our aging eyes don’t regenerate new cells as quickly as they used to, causing a build up of dead cells and protein overtime.
It’s a natural occurrence as we get older, but there are things you can do to keep your eyes healthier longer such as eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and shading your eyes from UV exposure.
TREATMENT: Surgery is the only way to restore your site. Fortunately it’s a common procedure with very little recovery time needed.
Blurred vision and sensitivity to light are symptoms of many eye conditions, including Keratoconus. Your cornea is a clear dome-shaped surface on your eye; over time it begins to bulge outward into more of a cone shape. Keratoconus affects both eyes, but usually one will be worse than the other. The condition develops in young people, usually 10-25 years.
TREATMENT: if caught early, you may be able to correct the vision problem associated with Keratoconus with glasses. There is a new treatment that may slow its progression called “corneal collagen cross-linking”. However, if your condition progresses a cornea transplant may be necessary.
5. DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
Prolonged high blood sugar, correlating from type 1 and 2 diabetes damages the blood vessels of the retina. Blurred vision or dark spots appear, which, if left untreated can lead to blindness. Both types of diabetes means you’re at risk, but depending how often your glucose fluctuates, how well you control your sugars and how long you’ve had diabetes all affect your risk level.
TREATMENT: Laser photocoagulation is a surgical procedure that can seal or eliminate growing/leaking blood vessels in the retina. It’s a common outpatient surgery that requires some sedation. Unfortunately the procedure will not restore your sight, it can stop the condition from worsening though.