Q: My spouse is diabetic. How could diabetes affect vision?
A: Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye. Visual symptoms of diabetes include fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, night vision problems and flashes and floaters within the eyes. Sometimes early signs of diabetes are detected in a thorough optometric examination. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels in the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result.
Q: What is glaucoma?
A: Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal fluid pressure of your eye rises to a point that the optic nerve is damaged. The pressure that builds up is usually due to inadequate drainage of fluid normally produced in your eyes. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.
Q: How can glaucoma be treated?
A: Glaucoma is usually effectively treated with prescription eye drops and medicines that must be taken regularly. In some cases, laser therapy or surgery may be required. The goal of treatment is to prevent loss of vision by lowering the fluid pressure in the eye. Anyone with this condition should be under the regular care of his or her optometrist.
Q: What are the symptoms of a cataract?
A: Cataracts usually develop slowly and without pain. Some indications that a cataract may be forming include blurred or hazy vision, decreased color perception, or the feeling of having a film over the eyes. A temporary improvement in near vision may occur, and increased sensitivity to glare, especially at night, may be experienced. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, but often at different rates.
Q: What is conjunctivitis?
A: More commonly known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin, transparent layer covering the surface of the inner eyelid and a portion of the front of the eye. This condition appears in many forms, including an infection, and affects people of all ages.
Q: Is “pink eye” contagious?
A: True “pink eye” is caused by infectious organisms–virus, bacteria, or fungus–that are contagious. However, “pink eye” is just one of many types of conjunctivitis that are similar. In any case, if you have any type of conjunctivitis, it is best to use good hygiene by washing hands regularly, not sharing towels, and trying not to touch or rub the eyes.
Q: What causes dry eye?
A: Dry eye occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears or produce tears which do not have the proper chemical composition. Dry eye symptoms can result from the normal aging process, exposure to environmental conditions, problems with normal blinking or from medications such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives or antidepressants. Dry eye can also be symptomatic of general health problems or can result from chemical or thermal burns to the eye. Always schedule regular appointments with your optometrist, but if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, call your optometrist immediately.
Q: What is the seriousness of vitreous detachment?
A: A vitreous detachment, often noticed by the appearance of “floaters” in one’s vision, is usually a benign (non-serious) condition. However, it is important to note that floaters often precede a retinal detachment, a more serious sight-threatening problem. You should check with your optometrist if or when you notice an increase in the number of spots or floaters present, or you experience the sensation of flashing lights. You should also schedule regular examinations with your optometrist so that your pupils may be dilated to allow better diagnosis of retinal conditions.