More about the eyes: Common Eye Conditions

Cataracts - As we get older, the crystalline lens becomes less transparent. If it becomes opaque, then the vision becomes "foggy" with less ability to see detail (in both distance and near vision). When cataracts are the cause of reduced vision, new spectacles lenses will not restore clear vision. Westerham Eye Care will refer the patient for surgery by an ophthalmologist. During surgery an intra-ocular lens (IOL) is usually implanted into the eye to replace the original lens.  When we see the beginnings of a cataract ('early cataract') we are unlikely to refer the patient for surgery at this stage but will monitor the patient regularly.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) - The macula is the most sensitive central part of the retina. It has a delicate blood supply. Changes in the blood supply to various parts of the body are common as age increases. When this happens to the retina, the macula is usually affected, which is what we mean by age-related macular degeneration. Straight lines appear distorted and there is a gradual loss of detail in your central vision while your peripheral vision remains unaffected. Someone with ARMD may be visually handicapped, but rarely goes totally blind. For many cases of ARMD there is no treatment available. However we must be informed of any sudden changes to vision urgently as it may be possible for it to be repaired by an ophthalmologist.

Glaucoma - The measurement of the pressure of the fluid in the eye is noted as IOP (Intra-Ocular Pressure). If the pressure of this fluid is high, it will slowly damage the optic nerve head (the entry/exit for nerves in the retina). This gradual damage initially affects peripheral vision and is not painful. If left untreated, glaucoma will damage all the nerves in the retina and lead to blindness. The damage is not reversible. Treatment for glaucoma is aimed at reducing the pressure by either drops, laser or surgery under the care of an ophthalmologist.

Another type of glaucoma is "Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma". It is very rare, has a sudden onset and is painful. Again, sudden changes in vision must be seen urgently.

Diabetes - Diabetes affects the blood circulation of the entire body. As the eye has a delicate and high proportion of the blood supply, it is prone to damage with diabetes. Diabetics should have regular (usually annual) eye examinations. Most diabetics have regular retinal photographs taken as part of their NHS programme for diabetic management. The retinal photographs do not replace a general eye examination which is still recommended  yearly.

Red Eye - A red eye (or both eyes) has a wide range of causes from conjunctivitis to corneal ulcers to glaucoma. A person with a sudden onset of a red eye should be seen the same day, and if wearing contact lenses be advised to remove them and to wear their spectacles.

Conjunctivitis - The conjunctiva is the clear tissue overlying the sclera (the white part of the eye). Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva. The causes of conjunctivitis are usually viral or bacterial infection or as a result of an allergic reaction. Treatment will depend on the cause.

Flashes and Floaters- People with normal eyes commonly see flashes of light or black “floaters” which look like spiders or tadpoles. These occur because of changes in the vitreous jelly, which lies directly in front of the retina. Any changes in the vitreous jelly can give rise to the appearance of floaters, but do not usually lead to any serious problems.

Separation or detachment of the vitreous from the retina is a common phenomenon. In 90 per cent of patients this is an entirely harmless change with no damage to the retina. Vitreous detachment is a once-in-a-lifetime event and the vitreous cannot become reattached. Often the floaters will persist but become less noticeable with time.

However, if the flashes or floaters become worse, you should go to A&E to exclude any serious problems. If you see a black shadow or curtain effect, or experiences sudden loss of vision, you should attend the casualty department without delay.

Keratoconus- In this condition the cornea becomes cone-shaped instead of being a normal flat curve. This distorts and reduces vision. If vision is not correctable with spectacles, a rigid contact lens can be fitted. The contact lens reduces the distortion and provides better vision. If the cone develops in steepness beyond being able to be corrected with contact lenses the person may then require a corneal graft (donor cornea to replace their own distorted cornea) by an ophthalmologist.