Eye Health

Get the info about a few common eye health issues

Eye Health

It’s important to stay on top of your eye health. Outlined below are a few common eye health issues.

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Dry Eyes

Dry eye is a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem. Many factors contribute to dry eyes, including advancing age, gender (females), medications, medical conditions, environmental conditions, contact lenses, excessive screen use, and prior eye surgeries. Symptoms include ocular dryness, scratchy eyes, burning or stinging, excessive watering, sensitivity to light, redness, or blurred vision. Dry Eyes can be diagnosed by your optometrist, as part of a comprehensive eye exam.

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or swelling of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. It can be caused by many factors, including bacteria, viruses, allergies, dry eyes, cosmetics, and contact lenses.

Infectious forms of conjunctivitis can be highly contagious, and can easily spread at home, work, or school. If you suspect you have conjunctivitis, you should see your optometrist to diagnose the cause and recommend to proper treatment.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids in which they become red, irritated and itchy. Dandruff-like scales can form on the eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder caused by either sensitivity to bacteria on the skin or common skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea. If untreated it can lead to dry eyes, or the formation of a hordeolum (stye).

Blepharitis is generally not contagious, and most forms respond well to treatment prescribed by your optometrist.

Cataracts

A cataract is an opacity that occurs in the normally clear lens. They most commonly affect older patients, but can occur at any age including in infants. Cataracts are often bilateral, but worse in one eye. They can cause blurry or hazy vision, glare or starbursts around lights at nighttime, and changes in the eye’s prescription.

If a cataract minimally affects the vision it does not require treatment. Sometimes a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses can improve vision. More severe cataracts that affects a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks may require surgery. Surgery involves replacing the “dirty” human lens with an artificial lens implant. Your optometrist can diagnose cataracts and discuss treatment options with you.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye disorders that leads to progressive damage to the optic nerve, resulting in permanent loss of vision. It is often called the “Silent Thief of Sight” because there are no common symptoms. Glaucoma most often will affect a person’s peripheral vision, but it can progress to affect central vision as well. The disease cannot be prevented. If caught and treated early, medication or surgery may help slow or halt any further progression. Vision already lost cannot be restored. This is why regular comprehensive eye exams are recommended for early detection of eye disease.

If you would like more information on glaucoma, you can visit the Canadian Association of Optometrists website here.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. Caucasians are at a higher risk than other races, and women develop AMD earlier than men. AMD occurs when there are changes to the macula, a small portion of the retina at the back of the eye. People may experience gradual or sudden loss of ability to see clearly, distortions in their vision, straight lines appear crooked or bent, or empty areas in the central field of vision. The “Dry” form is more common and less severe, and there is no current treatment available. The less common and more severe “Wet” form may respond to laser or injection treatments.

Vision loss from AMD is permanent, however low-vision devices such as telescopic and microscopic lenses may help improve visual function. Your optometrist may recommend lifestyle modifications or vitamins to help reduce your risks for developing AMD or having further progression of the condition.

If you would like more information on AMD, you can visit the Canadian Association of Optometrists website here.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is a serious, sight-threatening condition involving progressive damage to the retina in people with diabetes. Diabetes involves the body’s inability to store and process sugar. The result is damage to various tissues and organs throughout the body, including the eyes. Within the eye, diabetes damages the small blood vessels, causing them to leak blood and fluid into the retina. This causes swelling of the retinal tissue, which can cause reduced clarity of vision and ultimately blindness if left untreated.

In addition to diabetic retinopathy, patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for other eye conditions such as dry eyes, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal detachments. It is important for patients with diabetes to have an annual dilated eye exam as part of their overall diabetes management.

If you would like more information on diabetes, you can also visit the Diabetes Canada website here.

Flashes & Floaters

Floaters is the term given to the small, shadowy/dark spots or lines appearing in the field of vision caused by particles drifting through the vitreous (the clear, jelly-like fluid) inside the eye. They become more apparent whenever they cross your line of sight, and appear to drift away as you look towards them.

Floaters are relatively common, and most often not harmful. New floaters, an abundance of floaters, or floaters accompanied by flashing/flickering lights may signify problems inside the eyes such as a retinal tear or detachment. If a retinal tear or detachment has occurred, it needs to be treated to reduce the chance of loss of vision. You should always see an eye care provider for a dilated eye exam if you suspect you have new-onset floaters or flashes.

Colour Vision Deficiency

Colour vision deficiency is the inability to distinguish certain shades of colour. It is often referred to as colourblindness, but very few people are completely colourblind (known as achromatopsia). Most commonly people have difficulty distinguishing reds from greens or blues from yellows.

Colour deficiency can range in severity depending on the cause, whether inherited or acquired from injury/illness. There is no cure for inherited deficiencies. If it is acquired then treatment targets the underlying condition. People with colour deficiencies often lead perfectly normal lives, however there may be limitations to which career options are possible.

Refractive Error (Myopia, Astigmatism, Hyperopia, Presbyopia)

Myopia (nearsightedness) occurs when the power in the eye created by the cornea and lens is too strong, or the length of the eye is too long. This results in light being focused in front of the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). People with myopia have difficulty seeing clearly in the distance, but may have clear vision close up. Often, eyeglasses or contact lenses are prescribed to help these people see more clearly. Laser vision correction can also correct myopia, eliminating or reducing the need for using eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Hyperopia (farsightedness) occurs when the power in the eye created by the cornea and lens is too weak, or the length of the eye is too short. The result is light getting focused behind the retina. People with hyperopia have an easier time viewing objects in the distance, but may develop blur, eyestrain, or headaches when viewing objects up close (such as a phone, computer, tablet, or book). Eyeglasses or contact lenses may be prescribed for all-day wear or for near-work tasks to help reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Astigmatism is a condition resulting from an irregular shape of the cornea or lens, causing light to be focused on multiple points on the retina. People with astigmatism may experience blurry vision or shadowy vision when viewing in the distance or up close. Eyeglasses or contact lenses are often prescribed for all-day wear to help these people see clearly. Astigmatism is relatively common in the general population, but a small number of people develop progressive astigmatism as a result of a condition known as Keratoconus. In this disease, the cornea becomes very thin, and the result is a cone-shape to the front surface of the eye. In the mild stages, eyeglasses or contact lenses can still provide functional vision. As keratoconus progresses, speciality contact lenses or surgery may be required in order to maintain functional vision.

Presbyopia is the gradual loss of ability to read things and focus on close-up objects as we age. It generally occurs in a person’s early 40’s, and will start as eyestrain, visual fatigue, or blurry vision during prolonged close-up activities like browsing on your phone or using a computer screen. Some people compensate by holding reading material at arm’s length, or increasing the font on electronic devices. At some point, reading glasses, progressive eyeglasses or multifocal contact lenses become necessary for proper visual function. It is important to know that this is a normal process of aging, and is not a result of poor ocular health.

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