Preventative eye care is at the cornerstone of Vista Eye Care’s Mission. Preventative eye care centers around identifying and stopping eye disease before it affects eye health and vision. The key to understanding how eye disease can affect the eyes is to learn about the symptoms of disease, understand how these diseases affect eye health, and then appreciate the preventative steps you can take to stop eye disease from affecting your own eyes and vision. The eye is unique in that even very small amounts of disease can result in a dramatic decrease of vision. Many diseases first present with these symptoms:
Eye and Vision Symptoms
- Blurred Vision – This may be caused by cataracts, macular degeneration, dry eye, corneal disease, and diabetic retinopathy among others. Refractive error (i.e. your glasses prescription), can also fluctuate over time. Therefore, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia (needing reading glasses) can change with age and result in visual blur.
- Dry Eye – This sometimes presents as a gritty, sandy feeling in the eyes. Some patients even remark that they feel like they have something in their eyes. Often times the eye will be blurred between blinks.
- Watery Eye – The eyes often water because the surface of the cornea is dry. This can result from meibomitis, in-turned lids or lashes, or growths on the eye known as a pinguecula or a pterygium. If the eye produces tears, but those tears don’t adequately cover the cornea as they are supposed to, the body will over-produce these poor-quality tears resulting in watery eyes.
- Central Vision Blur – This often presents as the inability to recognize faces, or difficulty reading. This is commonly associated with macular degeneration or other macular disease.
- Glare – With symptoms of glare, headlights lose their sharp focus and patients complain of starbursts in their night vision. The common culprits here are cataracts and dry eye.
- Visual Floaters – These can be caused by serious retinal disease, or a relatively benign change to the fluid at the back of the eye known as a posterior vitreous detachment. Symptoms range from mild annoyance to serious vision defects. To be sure this condition doesn’t require immediate treatment to preserve your eye health, you should be seen immediately by an eye care professional.
- Flashes of Light – If you experience flashes of light in your vision, this is considered an ocular emergency and a dilated eye exam is needed to rule out a retinal detachment or a retinal tear.
- Eye Pain – Eye pain can be the sign of many different issues ranging from dry eye, to optic neuritis brought on by multiple sclerosis. Any patient with eye pain should be immediately seen by an eye care professional.
Review of Eye Diseases
- Cataracts – When the natural internal lens of the eye (known as the “crystalline lens”) gets clouded, you are essentially looking out of a dirty windshield. No amount of glasses correction or eye drops can change your vision when you have a dense enough cataract. The procedure to remove cataracts is generally safe and effective, though it is a good idea to wait until your cataracts affect your daily life significantly before electing to undergo the surgery. Cataracts require surgery to remove them, though this surgery is generally considered very safe and effective.
- Macular Degeneration – Oxidative damage builds up at the most visually-sensitive part of the retina, the macula. This results in problems reading, recognizing faces, and driving. Side vision is generally unaffected. Treatment may include monitoring, high-dose antioxidant dietary supplementation, laser surgeries, and eye injections.
- Glaucoma – This disease results in side vision loss related to the internal pressure of the eye. Most forms of glaucoma have a gradual onset and early diagnosis is the key to preventing functional vision loss. Glaucoma treatment is usually possible with topical medications, though other forms of surgery are available to prevent vision loss from this common eye disease. Because most patients with glaucoma don’t know they have it, it is important to identify this disease early before it robs the patient of vision. Vision that is lost to glaucoma is permanently lost and cannot be recovered.
- Diabetes – The leading cause of adult blindness in the United States. Diabetes can cause bleeding and swelling of the retina, early cataracts, and is thought to complicate glaucoma. Treatment of this disease centers around systemic health management, and getting blood sugar under control is a must. To address diabetic retinopathy specifically, there are a host of laser and scalpel surgeries that are aimed at stabilizing the vision loss from this disease. Surgery is typically only initiated for severe forms of this disease, and careful, regular monitoring of the retinal health is important to maintain good vision.
- Other Retinal Disease – Retinal holes, tears, and detachments should ideally be diagnosed and treated early. Warning signs include flashes of light, and floaters in the patient’s vision. Because of the severity of these diseases, time is of the essence and these patients must be seen by an eye care professional as soon as possible.
- Dry Eye – An estimated 26 million Americans suffer from dry eye. Given that the cornea is the most sensitive part of the body, dry eye needs to be recognized as a serious disease that warrants prompt, effective treatment. Eye drops, or artificial tears, can provide relief in some patients, while more severe cases may need prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, ointments, or tear duct plugs. For those types of dryness that result from lower tear quality, expression of the Meibomian glands (the oil glands in the lids) can providing lasting relief of dry eye symptoms. The most effective, and long-lasting treatment for this “meibomitis” is an in-office lid procedure known as Lipiflow. It is always beneficial to identify meibomitis early in order to prevent permanent scarring of the lids.
- Pink Eye – This is a large set of diseases that could refer to dry eye, an infection (caused by viruses, bacteria, amoebas, or fungi), eye allergies, or a foreign object in the eye. Identifying the cause of the pink eye early allows our eye doctors to start effective treatment.
- Keratoconus – A corneal disease that can result in blurred vision, even with glasses correction. Keratoconic eyes, if identified early, can benefit from a surgical procedure called corneal cross-linking which can slow the progression of the disease.
Preventative Eye Care
- Regular Eye Care – While many eye diseases have symptoms that are easily noticed, some cause symptoms that change slowly over time, or symptoms that don’t occur until late in the disease process. Cataracts blur vision slowly and patients often don’t realize how bad their vision is because their vision didn’t just get bad over night. Glaucoma isn’t generally noticed by the patient until late in the disease –when it is more challenging to treat. Retinal disease is much easier to treat in its early stages. Part of your annual comprehensive eye and vision examination at Vista Eye Care is dilating the pupils, checking the health at the front and back of the eye, checking the lens for cataracts, measuring your eye pressures, and checking your vision. This thorough eye care regimen allows our eye doctors to identify disease as early as possible so we can take steps to keep your eyes healthy and your vision great.
- Eye Care for All Ages – It is important to appreciate that eye care is needed for all ages. Many of the diseases discussed here are preventable, and having guidance on how to prevent those diseases when you are younger can prevent or reduce the severity of disease when you are older. The American Optometric Association recommends children be seen at 6-12 months of age at what is known as an “InfantSEE” eye exam. The doctors at Vista Eye Care generally recommend yearly eye exams for all adults, and certainly annual eye exams for those patients over the age of 60.
- Nutrition – Cataracts and macular degeneration both respond well to high-antioxidant diets. The AREDS study demonstrated that high antioxidant supplement intake positively affected the outcomes of those patients with mid to late stage macular degeneration. This is generally translated to our recommending that patients take vitamin supplementation if a patient has high risk factors, or early signs of macular disease. We test the macular pigmentation of our patients over the age of 30 to determine their risk factors for developing macular degeneration later in life. For those patients with specific risk, a dietary supplementation is prescribed.
- Sun Protection – Cataracts and macular degeneration both are related to tissue oxidation, so preventing exposure to oxidizing wavelengths of light (specifically ultraviolet, or UV) can likely prevent those diseases from progressing. Given that we live at altitude here in Thornton and have a higher UV Index than those patients living on the coast, sun protection outdoors is a must.
How You Can Prevent Disease
It is important to be seen regularly for your eye care, and right away if you feel you have any of the symptoms discussed above. You don’t need to wait for your yearly exam to check your eye health. Examples of when our doctors could help with a medical eye exam include the following:
- Dry eyes
- Glaucoma pressure checks
- Eye infections
- Retinal concerns
- Cataract management and surgery
- Macular degeneration management
- Diabetic care
- Eyelid issues
Eyes are too precious not to be cared for properly. Most treatments are easily accomplished when disease is identified early. Annual eye exams are the base level of care for all of our patients. Our role as optometrists is to diagnose these diseases early, and either treat or coordinate treatment of disease. Sometimes we need to just monitor a disease to be sure it doesn’t progress. Sometimes we will initiate treatment with topical or systemic medication. If you require surgery, we will refer you to one of the many specialists that we work with in the area to be sure that your eyes will continue to provide you with great vision.
Please note that the above information is not meant as a substitute for having your eyes checked in-office by an optometrist. Call our office today at (303) 450-2020 to schedule an eye exam for yourself and your family, or use the button below to schedule your examination online: