Sunday, June 26, 2016
Eye care experts recommend having your eyes tested every 2 years but many of us don’t even bother. However, with more and more people in the UK now requiring corrective lenses for clearer vision - an estimate of 1 in 3 people - can you really afford to neglect your eye health?
Short-sightedness or Myopia is a condition causing distant objects to appear blurred whilst close objects remain clear. Myopia occurs when the eyes grow a little too large, however, it is not known exactly what causes this. Heredity is considered a partial factor, and also spending a lot of time focusing on close objects. It is most commonly diagnosed during puberty, and treated with corrective lenses, or laser eye surgery, the latter becoming more popular in recent years. Short term, it causes few issues, however, in the longer term, it can lead to the development of other eye conditions.
Colour blindness is a hereditary condition present from birth. It can also develop because of an underlying medical condition or due to chemical or physical damage to the eye. Colour blindness occurs when some of the eyes colour sensitive cells, called cones, do not work properly or are missing. The condition affects around 8% of men and 0.5% of women. There is no cure, but there are things that can be done to improve the effects, such as using special tinted lenses or certain settings on electronic devices to make them easier to use. In the longer term, colour blindness can have an impact on a person’s career choice.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the thin clear layer that covers the front of the eye. There are three types of conjunctivitis - caused by bacterial or viral infection, allergic reactions or irritation of the conjunctiva. Usually, symptoms clear up on their own, but if they persist, antibiotic eye drops are prescribed. Conjunctivitis affects approximately 1 person per 100 annually in the UK, and whilst some discomfort can occur, it is usually only short term. Complications are rare but can be serious and include scarring to the eye or a secondary bacterial infection such as meningitis.
More common in women than men, it is thought that 1 in 3 people over 65 experience dry eyes, but this condition can affect younger people as well as adults. Dry eyes are caused by a problem with tears - if they are not of the right quality, or do not spread across the surface of your eye properly when you blink, dryness can occur. Some medications or even contact lenses can also cause dryness, and a pharmacist can suggest eye drops to alleviate symptoms.
Glaucoma occurs when aqueous humor builds up in the eye and can’t drain properly, causing pressure. This can cause damage to both the optical nerve and nerve fibres from the retina. Although glaucoma affects all ages, it is more prevalent in the over 40 age bracket. It can cause partial vision loss in the short term, but left untreated, it can result in blindness - a non-reversible loss of vision. Whilst it can’t be cured, if caught early and treated with eye drops, laser treatment or surgery, it can be controlled and future damage minimised.
Cataracts occur when the lens becomes cloudy and less transparent. Over time, this can worsen, and vision becomes misty. Cataracts can be a congenital condition in children, but is more often seen in older adults, where the lens is not able to change shape as well as it used to. People with medical conditions such as diabetes or smokers are more at risk of developing cataracts. Caught early, cataracts can be treated with new glasses and brighter lighting; if these do not work, surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one is the only option.
An inflammation of the arteries and veins, vision loss, is a symptom of temporal arteritis. The cause is unknown, but it can develop suddenly and may follow vague symptoms such as weight loss or prolonged tiredness. Without prompt steroid based treatment, which usually last 2 years, temporal arteritis can lead to permanent visual impairment. It is most prevalent in the over 50’s age group. Almost 50% of patients with temporal arteritis relapse, and will require a small indefinite maintenance dose of steroids.
It is vitally important to look after your eyes; if you have any eye discomfort, it is always best to seek medical advice and have regular eye checks, allowing your optometrist to spot early symptoms, making it easier to treat them and prevent things getting worse.