Look through the lens
of common eye diseases
Ever wonder what your loved one with macular degeneration really sees? Or how your colleague with cataracts views the world? Walk through a simulation of common eye diseases and learn how you could potentially treat or prevent these troublesome conditions.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for people over 50 and affects more than 10 million Americans – more than glaucoma and cataracts combined. It’s caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. You may not be aware of it until you notice slight changes in your vision or until it’s detected during an eye exam. You can reduce your risk and possibly slow the progression of this condition by dieting, exercising, quitting smoking and protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light. Learn more
To look for signs of macular degeneration, an eye doctor will use special lenses to study your macula and blood vessels after the pupils have been dilated. The doctor may also ask you to view an Amsler grid, a pattern that looks like a checkerboard. This grid will appear distorted to patients with changes in central vision, which can be a sign of macular degeneration.
Glaucoma is not just one eye disease, but a group of eye conditions resulting in optic nerve damage, which may cause loss of vision. Over 4 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of those know they have it.* Abnormally high pressure inside your eye (intraocular pressure) usually, but not always, causes this damage. It can damage your vision so gradually, you may not notice any loss of vision until the disease is at an advanced stage. If the disease is detected and treated early, it can be slowed or stopped. Learn more
*According to Prevent Blindness America
To detect glaucoma, your doctor first looks for abnormal optic nerves such as a crater that gets deeper with thinner walls, or the donut getting a much bigger hole and a thinner rim. If abnormal optic nerves are detected, your doctor will then check your eye pressure and perform specialized tests to determine if glaucoma is the culprit. Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-21 and the risk of developing glaucoma increases if the pressure stays higher than 21 over several years.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It’s caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. It often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late because its initial symptoms are very slight. However, it can be detected during your annual eye exam when your eye doctor dilates your eyes. Learn more
To determine if you have diabetic retinopathy, your eye doctor will dilate your eyes and perform special tests on your retina. If you have the early stage of diabetic retinopathy, the doctor may see blood vessels in the eye that are larger in certain spots, that are blocked and/or that have small amounts of bleeding and fluid leaking into the retina.
Cataracts cloud the normally clear lenses of your eyes. Seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Most cataracts are age related and develop slowly. They don't affect your eyesight early on, but with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. People in their 40s or 50s can have age-related cataracts, but they’re so small they don’t affect vision. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.* Learn more
Most cataracts can be diagnosed with an eye exam. Your eye doctor will test your vision and examine your eyes with a slit lamp microscope to look for yellowing of the lens, clefts and fissures, or white opacities that indicate the presence of cataracts. The pupils will also be dilated to better examine the back of the eye, where the retina and optic nerve lie.
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An annual eye exam is actually a physical for your eyes and may detect many eye health issues long before symptoms occur.