Glaucoma: diagnosis and treatment

March 1st, 2010

Glaucoma is a commonly recognized term, but most people really don’t know what it is, other than the fact that if affects the eyes. Actually “glaucoma” is a word that describes an entire group of various conditions. What they all have in common is that they damage the optic nerve and reduce a person’s ability to see. The damage to the optic nerve is typically caused by pressure inside the eye, although that is not the case for all people.

This is a scary condition because it is the second leading cause of blindness. It is not something that will occur suddenly–one day you can see and the next you cannot–but is rather a slow moving condition which causes your vision to deteriorate over time. It is so slow, in fact, that you may not even notice it happen.
Because of the way the disease operates, you need to consult with your eye care professional whenever you have vision loss. Although it may just be that your eyes have naturally worsened with age and you need a stronger eyeglass prescription, you should double-check and make sure it is not more serious. You should be getting a check-up every year anyway.
Your doctor will diagnose glaucoma by first measuring the pressure in your eye. They will also photograph the optic nerve and test it for damage. Your doctor may also perform a pachymetry, which is to figure out the thickness of your corneas. This helps in the diagnosis because a thick cornea may cause an inflated eye pressure test and a thin cornea may result in a low level of eye pressure where glaucoma is still present.

Because loss of peripheral vision is another symptom of glaucoma, your doctor may also test your peripheral vision with something called a visual field test. You may have had something similar done in the past at routine eye screenings.

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your doctor will set out a treatment plan for you. The most common first treatment is medicated eye drops. These are not the same as the drops you may put in your eyes for redness or irritation. Rather, these are strong medicines like beta blockers, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, or epinephrine. Which kind you receive will depend on the severity of your glaucoma, as well as other health factors. Beta blockers, for example, are not recommended for people on insulin treatments.

Other possible treatment options include oral medications when the eye drops don’t work or neuroprotective drugs which may be able to preserve current vision.
If medications do not work,

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Glasses or contacts: are intraocular lens implants right for me?

March 1st, 2010

When you have spent your whole life with great vision, it can be quite jarring when your eye care professional tells you that you need corrective eyewear. Sometimes it can come as a teenager, sometimes in young adulthood, and some people have perfect vision until middle age when their vision only then begins to deteriorate. Whatever the age, the realization that you now have to worry about your eyes and your ability to see can be quite daunting.

However, you just need to relax and realize that a large part of the population has been in your same position and they have managed to adapt to wearing glasses or contact lenses, and you will too. You may be wondering whether you should choose glasses or contact lenses. There are several things that you need to consider when making this decision.

First, you should discuss with your eye care professional how serious your vision loss is. For example, do you only need glasses for reading or driving, or do you need to wear them all day long? If you only need them for reading, for example, it may just be easier to wear glasses and take them off when you finish with the newspaper or book.

You also need to think about what you do in your daily life that may be affected by your choice between glasses or contacts. For example, are you active in sports? Do you like to swim? While some sports are fine to wear glasses, like power walking, contact sports are more difficult because you would worry about the glasses getting broken. Even sports glasses or goggles are not unbreakable. Another consideration may be your job. If you work in a situation where you need to wear a mask or if you are moving around a lot, like in construction, glasses might not be practical.

Next, you need to think about whether you have the patience for dealing with contact lenses. Glasses are simple. You put them on and take them off. Occasionally they may need to be cleaned with a special soft cloth, but that is about it. With contact lenses, however, you need to make sure you take pristine care of them. This includes soaking them in cleaning solution every night, not accidentally falling asleep in them, not rubbing your eyes, which can cause them to dislodge, and getting them replaced immediately if there is a tear or one is lost.

Another consideration may just be simple vanity. Some people like how they look in glasses and others prefer to look like their old self in contact lenses. This can be a consideration for teens, as well as people whose appearance matters to their career, such as a model. Keep in mind, though, that there are beautiful frames out there and everyone can find something they love. Some people who are into fashion love making their glasses another kind of fashion accessory.

The decision between glasses and contact lenses is a personal one, intraocular lens implants consider, and take all that you have read and reflect on your own life, to make the right decision for you.

About the Author: Mark Masters has authored may pieces on the eye care & surgery industry and enjoys keeping his readers up to date in this field

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Austin Cataract Surgery: When is it necessary

March 1st, 2010

There are a number of vision issues that people need to be worried about, but none seems more worrisome to many than cataracts. This could be because of the prevalence–everyone knows someone who has had them–or it could just be because it is a more well-known condition than some others. Whatever the case, it is important that people become educated about cataract surgery.

Cataracts are the clouding of the lens of the eye. Although they do not usually cause pain to the afflicted individual, it makes seeing difficult. People with cataracts often compare it to seeing through fog. Naturally this makes reading, driving, and seeing the world around you quite hard. The one thing to keep in mind is that cataracts develop slowly. Therefore, if you think you have symptoms, talk with your eye care professional about what you can do now to help lessen the symptoms and maybe slow the progression.

The symptoms of cataracts are cloudiness in your vision, however slight. It may even only affect a small part of the lens, so it may be a more subtle condition than someone whose entire lens is affected. Other things to look out for are blurred vision, sensitivity to light, fading or yellowing of colors, double vision in just one eye, and trouble seeing at night. While certainly some of these symptoms could also just be a cause of your vision getting worse naturally, in any case, you should see your eye doctor.

Age is the most common risk factor, but other risks include previous eye injury, smoking, excessive sunlight exposure, diabetes, and family history of the condition. Even if you do not have several of these risk factors, you should still see your eye care professional if you have any of the symptoms.

For people with cataracts, the only truly effective cure is surgery. Although cataract surgery was once fairly risky, newer procedures have helped to decrease the risks involved, creating a safer procedure. Surgery is typically recommended when the cataracts begin to interfere with daily activities and hinder your normal way of life. This is, of course, different for each person and you should decide with your doctor when is right for you.

During the surgery, the doctor will remove the lens and replace it with a lens implant that is clear, rather than cloudy like your lens. The procedure will be done one eye at a time in order to make recovery easier. You will be able to continue most activities while the first eye heals, rather than being without vision entirely. The surgery can be done on an outpatient basis in most cases.

The recovery time for cataract surgery has improved drastically in recent years and that should not prevent you from having the procedure performed. Some patients are even cleared to drive after a day or two, so your life will not be tremendously impacted. You owe it to yourself to get your vision back and begin enjoying the world again.

About the Author: Mark Masters has authored may pieces on the eye care & surgery industry and enjoys keeping his readers up to date in this field

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Reaching the Retina: Testing for, Diagnosing, and Treating Retinal Disease

February 24th, 2010

The types of retinal disease in existence today vary widely. There are many that are common and can be easily treated or cured, but others are rare, difficult to diagnose, and can require immediate attention in order to prevent lasting complications. Although it is not always possible to completely cure or reverse the effects or retinal diseases, early diagnoses hold more promise for preserving the most vision possible.

Tests Along with a thorough eye exam, there are some tests, discussed here, that doctors can use to determine what, if any, retinal disease is present.

  • Amsler Grid Test utilizes a small section of grid, which is placed before the patient who is asked to point out any areas of distortion or fading. The location pointed to can help a doctor determine if, and how severely, retinal damage exists. This is often used for mascular degeneration treatment.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is like ultrasound and is used to create a non-invasive, cross-sectional image of the retina, macula and optic nerve. Any holes, tearing or swelling will thereby be evident to the doctor.
  • Fluorescein Angiography is a process by which a dye injected into the arm displays blood flow in the eye clearly under special blue light so that a series of photographs taken over a few minutes can capture any damage or unusual change to the blood vessels. Similarly, Indocyanine Green Angiography makes blood vessels in the back of the eye stand out clearly under infrared light.
  • Ultrasound, known in many other applications, is equally effective at displaying clear pictures of the retina to determine its size and whether it is still connected, when other methods are not as successful.

Diagnoses There are a vast number of retinal diseases that affect people today. Some, like those discussed here, can be treated or monitored to prevent worsening or complete loss of vision.

  • Retinal Detachment requires surgery to prevent permanent and complete loss of vision. However, distinct warning signs- flashes and floaters in the line of vision- provide doctors the opportunity to quickly diagnose and correct the issue, so that vision cannot be preserved.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy is a side effect of several years of suffering with diabetes. Excess glucose causes capillaries in the back of the eye to swell and leak, and may also lead to the formation of new blood vessels in the retina that are susceptible to breaks and bleeds. Without proper care of diabetes related symptoms and regular eye exams, vision can be drastically damaged.
  • Epiretinal membrane can form over the macula- near the center of the eye’s retina. The scar tissue-like substance can get progressively worse and cause blurred or distorted vision. When necessary, there are procedures to remove the membrane and re-smooth the macula.
  • Age-related Macular Degeneration, as the name applies, affects an older crowd- age 50 years and over- and is a result of the macula beginning to deteriorate. At times, this can cause a sudden onset of symptoms- that range from blurred or distorted vision to a full blind spot in the mid-vision range- whereas other patients may never suffer any symptoms. When abnormal blood vessels form as a result of these complications, the diagnoses moves from one of dry disease to that of wet disease and vision loss will occur more rapidly. Although there is no procedure to reverse the effects of macular degeneration, doctors can help patients slow the process.

About the Author: Mark Masters has authored may pieces on the eye care & surgery industry and enjoys keeping his readers up to date in this field

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The Ins and Outs of Contact Lenses – A Quick FAQ

February 24th, 2010

Contacts are a popular choice for many, but they’re endlessly accompanied with lots of questions. Here are just a few of the most common.

Recommended age of first use? Parents are often concerned with fitting children with contact lenses too early in life, but eye care professionals assert that there is no “correct age” for introducing contacts. Physically, even infant’s eyes can tolerate contact lenses and in rare cases they have been made to fit the tiny tykes. But, it has also been found that children as young as eight years old have had no trouble inserting and removing contact lenses from their own eyes.

Hard versus soft: What is the difference in materials? Why would someone choose one over the other? There are a few different types of lenses, hard and soft, being the most common. Soft contacts have almost completely replaced hard lenses, though, as a result of many technological advances which have made them superior. Hard lenses- crafted of glass- were intended to be worn for only a few hours per day and made the eyes very susceptible to irritations and clinical issues because they did not let any oxygen into the inner eye. As time progressed, so did the contact lens. They are now “soft” and very oxygen permeable.  

Can a person wear them overnight? There are different types of contact lenses intended to fit the needs of different wearers. “Daily wear” lenses are named appropriately and should be removed prior to sleeping. For those who wish to leave their lenses in for longer periods of time, “extended wear” lenses allow for up to 6 days and nights of wear, whereas “continuous wear” lenses will allow for as many as thirty consecutive days and nights.  The extended and continuous wear lenses allow for such a wear time because they have a very high oxygen permeability, which allows for the eye to remain moist, comfy, and healthy the entire time they are in.

Wear them while playing sports? Despite the misconception, contacts are perfect for wear while playing any sport. They do not stick out like glasses and are very practical for those who need the vision aid.

Are they available in bifocal prescriptions? Not only can one find contact lenses in bifocal- or with two prescriptions within the same lens- but contacts are now available in multifocal prescriptions as well. That means that a whole range of eye prescriptions can be built into a single lens. Multifocal lenses are available in continuous wear, whereas bifocal lenses can also be found in daily wear.

Can they wear down the cornea and cause the need for surgery? No, they cannot cause the need for a corneal transplant.

Reordering options? If a contact lens wearer feels inclined to visit the eye doctor for each prescription refill, then that is his or her choice. However, with the technology of the day, it is far from required. They can be ordered via phone or internet, shipped to the office or to your home. Plus, when ordering from the internet, there are often discounts available.

About the Author: Mark Masters has authored may pieces on the eye care & surgery industry and enjoys keeping his readers up to date in this field

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The truth about LASIK

February 24th, 2010

You no doubt have heard about LASIK eye surgery, but may not be exactly sure what it is. The full name of the procedure is Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. That is a long-winded way of saying laser surgery. The benefit of the procedure is that it corrects your vision problems, making it unnecessary to wear glasses or contact lenses.

If you are interested in the procedure, you should contact your eye care professional who handles your normal routine eye care. He may be licensed to perform the procedure or, if not, may be able to give you a referral to someone who can.

The first step will be a consultation to determine whether you are a good candidate for the procedure. The doctor will give you an eye exam, ask you questions about your vision and medical history, and likely look through your records to see if your vision has gotten worse over time or stayed pretty steady. The doctor will use a corneal topographer to make an image, or map, of your cornea so that he can know how to perform the procedure.

The surgery will be performed as an outpatient procedure and is relatively quick. You will be awake during the procedure. You will receive eye drops that work as an anesthetic so that you cannot feel pain in your eyes. Then the doctor will use a laser to create a flap on the surface of the eye, so that the doctor can have access to the cornea. He will then make whatever adjustments are necessary to your cornea, based on the vision problems you have.

Most people claim to have little pain from the procedure, and many can see the next day. You can opt to have both procedures done at once or have them done a week apart. You can discuss with your surgeon which option is best for you.

It is important to note a few things about this procedure. First, while it does offer many patients the possibility of 20/20 vision, it will not achieve that result in all people. Those people who have especially strong prescriptions for their eyeglasses may still need to wear glasses after the surgery. Of course, their eyeglasses would be a much weaker prescription than before. In that way, it may benefit people in a different, but still valuable, way.

Also, as you age, your vision may decrease naturally. It is common for adults over 40 to need reading glasses, for example. This is likely not going to change, even if you have LASIK.

Another thing that many people don’t know is that LASIK is not an option for children and teens under the age of 18. This is because the FDA has only approved the practice for adults. This is a result of the eyes still growing and changing shape during the childhood and teen years.

While it is not as scary as you may have feared, it is still a serious procedure. For that reason, it is important that you choose a licensed, qualified surgeon to perform the procedure.

About the Author: Mark Masters has authored may pieces on the eye care & surgery industry and enjoys keeping his readers up to date in this field

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