Macular degeneration is the number-one cause of blindness in the United States. It occurs when the macula — a part of the retina in the back of the eye that ensures that our vision is clear and sharp — degrades or “degenerates”, causing a progressive loss of vision.
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are many treatment options available to help preserve vision, as well as several ongoing investigations to develop more effective techniques. Treatment for dry macular degeneration may include anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory treatment and control of dyslipidemias, while wet macular degeneration can be maintained through similar techniques as well as intraocular injections of certain medications known as VEGF inhibitors. Because vision lost to the disease is irrecoverable, regular eye exams are highly recommended. Certain vitamins and minerals may also aid in slowing or preventing vision loss.
Symptoms often associated with macular degeneration include:
- A gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly
- A gradual loss of color vision
- Distorted vision
- A dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision
The retina is the place in the back of the eye where light rays are focused and transmitted to the brain. It consists of layers of nerve fibers. If these layers separate, or detach, significant and swift vision loss can occur. Retinal detachment therefore requires immediate medical treatment. The exact procedure used varies depending on the patient’s condition and the type of detachment suffered.
The most common form of retinal detachment occurs when fluid seeps through leaks in the retina’s sensory layer. This is often caused by injury, eye surgery, or nearsightedness. More rarely, disease-related swelling or bleeding causes fluid to seep beneath all layers and push the entire retina away from the eye wall. Retinal detachment may also result from friction against vitreous or scar tissue, which occurs most frequently in patients with diabetes.
Signs of retinal detachment include light flashes and floaters, wavy or watery vision, the appearance of a veil or curtain obstructing vision, or a sudden drop in vision quality. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Early treatment is essential to maintain and restore vision quality.
Dry eye is the term for when your eyes are insufficiently moisturized, either because they do not produce enough tears or because the tears have an improper chemical composition. It often occurs during the natural aging process, but it can also form as a result of eyelid or blinking problems, certain medications (antihistamines, oral contraceptives, antidepressants), climate (low humidity, wind, dust), injury, and various health problems (arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome).
In addition to being uncomfortable, dry eye can damage eye tissue, scar the cornea and impair vision. Dry eye is not preventable, but it can be controlled before harm is done to your eyes. Regular eye exams can detect dry eye early, even before symptoms become noticeable. Symptoms include:
- Irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes
- A burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes
- Blurred vision
Treatment for dry eye can take many forms, depending on the cause of the condition.. Non-surgical methods include blinking exercises, increasing humidity at home or work, and use of artificial tears or moisturizing ointment. Prescription eye drops called Restasis® are also available from Dr. Semel to increase tear production and more sufficiently moisturize the eyes, while certain nutritional supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may help to relieve dry eye symptoms. If these methods fail, small plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or the drainage tubes in the eyes may be surgically closed.
Diabetic Eye Diseases
Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. These and other serious conditions often develop without vision loss or pain, so significant damage may be done to the eyes by the time the patient notices any symptoms. For this reason it is very important for diabetic patients to have a dilated eye exam once a year. Diagnosing and treating eye disease early can prevent vision loss. It is also important to maintain a steady blood-sugar level, take prescribed medications, follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking.