If you’ve been diagnosed with cataracts, you may wonder if cataract surgery is right around the corner. Not to worry. There are many preventive steps you can take to slow the progression of cataracts and preserve your vision. That doesn’t mean you won’t eventually need surgery, but you can at least delay the need for quite a while.
The National Eye Institute recommends protecting your eyes from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) and high-energy visible (HEV) rays by always wearing good quality sunglasses while outdoors. Look for sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays and absorb most HEV rays with large lenses or a close-fitting wraparound style. Remember that the peak hours for sun exposure are between 10 am and 3 pm or 11 am and 4 pm during daylight savings time and that the sun’s rays are strong enough to pass through clouds, so you need your sunglasses every day.
Steroid eye drops are routinely prescribed to treat dry eyes or an arthritic flare-up in the eyes. Unfortunately, they can also speed up the progression of cataracts. Talk to your Optometrist about how you can manage both conditions without inadvertently making your cataracts worse – and hastening the need for surgery.
There are over 300 commonly prescribed medications with side effects that may impact cataract progression. Since your primary care physician may not have access to your eye doctor’s medical records, be sure to ask your doctor if your current medications will affect your cataracts. If you must stay on the medication, it’s even more important to avoid sunlight during peak hours and to wear sunglasses.
If you haven’t quit already, here’s another good reason to do it: over time, the damage from smoking can double or triple an individual's risk of developing cataracts. If you’ve been a smoker, your habit was probably a big contributor to the diagnosis. The good news is – by quitting smoking now, you can slow the progression of cataracts.
Studies have shown that certain vitamins and nutrients may reduce age-related decline in eye health, particularly antioxidants. If you’ve already been diagnosed with cataracts, adding foods rich in antioxidants to your diet will help slow the progression. This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are some examples to get you started: dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries, pecans, carrots, sweet potatoes, artichokes, kale, red cabbage, beans, beets, spinach, apples, and plums.
Doctors also recommend eating more fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. This has been linked to a potentially reduced risk of cataracts or their progression. You may also consider taking a multivitamin that contains Vitamin C and E. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about how you might adopt a healthy eating plan that’s designed to prevent cataracts.
Fortunately, making these healthy modifications to your diet can prevent many other lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. Studies have shown that a diet rich in processed carbohydrates can increase your risk of both developing cataracts and speeding up its progression. It’s important to develop a plan that works for you and supports your holistic health.
Take control of your cataract diagnosis by getting regular eye exams, communicating with your doctor, and putting these tips into practice. You’ll have better vision and prevent the need for cataract surgery in the near future.
You might be surprised at how many tests eye doctors use to diagnose glaucoma. A proper diagnosis requires careful evaluation of many aspects of your eye’s health – from eye pressure to cornea thickness to the health of your optic nerve. This article describes how your eye doctor assesses your risk and all the tests needed to properly diagnose glaucoma.
Your eye doctor will begin by assessing your risk level for developing glaucoma. This will help determine the frequency and extent of testing needed. Through a family history and medical questionnaire, the eye doctor is looking for the following risk factors:
Over the age of 60
Ethnic background such as African or black Caribbean descent, Hispanic, or Asian
Family history of glaucoma, such as a sibling or parent with glaucoma
History of eye conditions, injuries, or surgeries
Prolonged corticosteroid use (eye drops, pills, inhalers, or creams)
Chronic conditions that affect blood flow, such as migraines, diabetes, low blood
pressure or hypertension
Current or former smoker
If you’ve already had a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will also consider these risk factors:
Eye pressure higher than normal (above 21 mm Hg)
Thin corneas (less than 0.5 millimeters)
Your type of eyesight is also important. People with farsightedness are at a higher risk for narrow-angle glaucoma, a more serious type that can advance quickly. While nearsightedness is associated with open-angle glaucoma, which progresses slowly without any symptoms.
During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will always check for glaucoma, regardless of the risk level. This provides a baseline for comparison as you age. There are two tests: tonometry and ophthalmoscopy.
Macular degeneration, commonly referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the single largest cause of sight loss in the developed world and affects more than 10 million Americans. It usually affects people over the age of 60 but has been known to affect those who are younger. It is a painless condition that usually affects both eyes with the loss being experienced in the central vision. It does not affect the peripheral vision, meaning that it does not cause total blindness.
The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina and is responsible for our central vision and what allows us to see fine details with clarity.
Wet AMD is one variety of the condition in which abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula, leaking blood or fluid which then causes scarring and a rapid loss of central vision. Wet AMD can develop suddenly and rapid referral to a specialist is essential as it can be treated if caught quickly.
Dry AMD is the most common variety of age-related macular degeneration and is a gradual deterioration of the retina as the cells die off over time and are not regenerated. Up to 15% of people with dry AMD go on to develop wet AMD, and so any sudden changes in your vision should be followed up with your optometrist as soon as possible.
Macular degeneration affects each person differently, which means that it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, particularly as you may not notice any change in your vision early on in the condition. However, as the cells deteriorate, you will start to see an increasing range of symptoms, including:
Distortion or bends in what should be straight lines (such as lampposts or door frames)
Dark spots in your central vision
Difficulty adapting from dark to light environments
Objects may appear to change shape, size or color, or may move or disappear
Bright lights may be difficult to tolerate
Words may disappear while you are reading
Unfortunately, there is no clear reason as to what triggers the process that causes macular degeneration. However, you are at an increased risk if you have a family history of the condition, or if you are over 60.
Experts suggest that the best thing you can do to minimize any potential risk is to ensure that you live a healthy, active lifestyle. You can do this by:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
Moderating your alcohol consumption
Maintaining a healthy weight
Getting regular exercise
There is also some limited research that suggests that eating leafy, green vegetables can slow the deterioration of vision in cases of dry AMD.
Sadly, there is currently no cure for either variety of AMD. In the case of dry AMD, the treatments suggested are done so with the aim of aiding the patient to make the most of their remaining vision. This can include things such as using magnifying glasses to help with reading.
Wet AMD can be treated with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medication. This should stop additional blood vessels from developing and stop your vision from deteriorating further.
Occasionally, laser therapy is suggested as a possible treatment for destroying abnormal blood cells, but this is only suitable for cases of wet AMD and usually, only around 1 in 7 sufferers may be potential candidates for this procedure.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding macular degeneration, we highly recommend that you speak with your optometrist who will be happy to assist you.
Eye disease that is caused by diabetes is currently the number one cause of blindness and vision loss. Due to the increased risk in diabetic patients, doctors recommend that people over 30 with diabetes get an annual dilated eye exam. Diabetic patients under 30 should get this exam five years after they have been diagnosed.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that is caused by damage to the retina. Patients that have diabetes may also have experienced extended periods of time where their blood sugar was elevated. The high levels of blood sugar damage the retina’s walls which leave them susceptible to leaking. When fluid accumulates in the retina or macula, it causes vision loss.
To make these matters worse, if prolonged high blood sugar levels are seen again, the retina will be oxygen-depleted. This causes the abnormal growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called neovascularization. This blood vessel type is weak and prone to leaking. As these blood vessels leak, they introduce blood into the eye. Excessive bleeding into the eye can cause blindness.
While a healthy diet and exercise can be beneficial to your optical health, diabetic retinopathy is a condition that is caused by damage to the retinal wall. While this damage can sometimes be corrected, simple diet changes won’t reverse the effects.
It is essential to catch the condition in the earlier stages to reduce the effects. This can also help patients understand the importance of monitoring their blood sugar so that repeat events can be limited. Treatment options are even more successful when diabetic retinopathy is caught early. These options include vitrectomy, scatter photocoagulation, and focal photocoagulation.
During both scatter, and focal photocoagulation the doctor will use lasers to help alleviate the condition. The lasers make small burns on the retina aimed at the blood vessels. These burns will help to seal the blood vessels to prevent more leakage and stop them from growing larger.
When using scatter photocoagulation, hundreds of small burns are made in a specific pattern during two additional appointments. Scatter coagulation should be used on patients who do not have advanced diabetic retinopathy.
Focal photocoagulation specifically targets the leaking blood vessels that are in the macula. Unfortunately, this procedure is not aimed to correct the blurry vision associated with diabetic retinopathy, but it does stop it from progressing further. Once the retina has detached, neither form of photocoagulation can be used.
Vitrectomy is a surgery that helps to remove scar tissue and/or the fluid that is clouded with blood that has been leaked into the eye. This operation is the most successful when performed before the disease has progressed too far. When the operation only targets removing the fluid, success rates are very high for the procedure. When the procedure also aims to reattach the retina, the failure rate is around 50%.
Retinopathy affects every person and even the same pair of eyes differently. A one size fits all approach isn’t possible, and it is important to talk to your medical professional about which options or treatment plans are right for you.
It’s important to continue to learn about how you can manage diabetes to help keep the progression of diabetic retinopathy at bay. Make sure to use the tools that are available to you. Test your blood glucose daily, schedule your regular doctor appointments and annual exams, and learn to listen to your body. We can often start to detect that something is going on when things just don’t feel right.
Managing your diabetes with a complete health plan can lead to an increase in the quality of life and help to stop further vision loss.