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Amblyopia, which is also called “lazy eye”, is a disorder that affects the visual development in children. Amblyopia is difficult to correct just with the use of contact lenses, or eyeglasses. Ambylopia can cause vision loss if it is not treated early and properly. This vision disorder affects 2-3% of the population.
What are the symptoms of Amblyopia?
Usually children that are born with amblyopia, the symptoms start in early childhood. Some signs of amblyopia in children are squinting, closing one eye in order to see better, poor general vision, headaches, and eyestrain. Usually caretakers such as parents, caregivers, doctors, or nurses notice these symptoms and recommend the child for treatment.
What are the causes of Amblyopia?
Strabismus is usually the cause of amblyopia. Strabismus is the eyes aligning incorrectly. Amblyopia can also be caused when there is a large difference between the eyes in refractive errors (prescription much higher in one eye than the other). For example, one eye is nearsighted, while the other is farsighted. If amblyopia is not treated, the brain will learn to disregard the vision in the eye with amblyopia. The eye that is disregarded does not grow with clear image and vision loss can be permanent. This is why it is very important to get early treatment and take your child to see your eye doctor if any signs are apparent.
How is Amblyopia treated?
There are several treatments for amblyopia, depending on the cause. Often children are treated using vision therapy, which usually includes a patch on the better eye. Other treatments are atropine eye drops, correct prescription eyeglasses, or surgery.
Vision therapy consists of eye exercises, which aim to teach the eyes to work together. In cases of amblyopia, the exercises require the brain to recognize the affected eye, which restores vision in that eye. Some doctors place a patch over the more functional eye, which forces the less functional eye to work harder and become stronger. The patch is generally worn for a few hours a day. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment can last for weeks or months. Some children refuse to wear a patch, in those cases, a prosthetic contact lens is available. These contact lenses look like the regular eye, and are designed to block vision in that eye.
Some doctors use atropine eye drops to treat amblyopia. These drops blur vision in the child’s better eye, forcing the weaker eye to work harder and get stronger. In the morning, one drop is instilled under eye doctor’s instructions. The advantage to this method of treatment is that the patch is avoided.
If your child has developed amblyopia because of uncorrected vision, sometimes all that is needed is a pair of eyeglasses. When there is strong uncorrected prescription, or when there is a large difference in prescription between the two eyes, sometimes amblyopia can result. Your eye doctor may recommend eye patch therapy in addition to corrective lenses.
Strabismus surgery is usually required if the amblyopia is due to a large eye turn. This type of surgery aligns the eyes and corrects the problem within the eye muscles. After the surgery the eyes will able to focus better. Additional vision therapy may be required after strabismus surgery.
Amblyopia must be treated as early as possible as there is no chance that it will resolve by itself. Untreated amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss in that eye and reduced depth perception. Amblyopia needs to be treated promptly so that your child can have the best vision possible in childhood and later in life. When amblyopia is diagnosed and treated before age 9, the weaker eye can often develop significantly better vision. The most critical time to treat amblyopia is from 3 to 6 years of age. If you or anyone sees any signs of amblyopia, go to your eye doctor to find the best treatment for your child.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve due to an increase in pressure inside the eye or intraocular pressure (IOP). When detected in the early stages, glaucoma can often be controlled, preventing severe vision loss and blindness. However, symptoms of noticeable vision loss often only occur once the disease has progressed. This is why glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight”. Unfortunately, once vision is lost from the disease, it usually can’t be restored.
Treatments include medication or surgery that can regulate the IOP and slow down the progression of the disease to prevent further vision loss. The type of treatment depends on the type and the cause of the glaucoma.
The primary forms of glaucoma are open-angle and narrow-angle, with open-angle being the most common type.
Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) gradually progresses without pain or noticeable vision loss initially affecting peripheral vision. By the time visual symptoms appear, irreparable damage has usually occurred, however the sooner treatment starts the more further vision loss can be prevented. When untreated, vision loss will eventually result in total loss of side vision (or tunnel vision) and eventually total vision loss.
Normal-tension glaucoma or low-tension glaucoma is another form of open-angle glaucoma in which the intraocular pressure remains within the normal level. The cause of this form of glaucoma is not known, but it is believed to have something to do with insufficient blood flow to the optic nerve, causing damage. Individuals of Japanese descent, women and those with a history of vascular disease or low blood pressure are at higher risk.
Angle-closure glaucoma can be a sudden increase in eye pressure causing severe pain, blurred vision, halos, nausea and headaches. The pressure is caused by a blockage in fluid at the front of the eye which is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Without prompt treatment to clear the blockage vision can be permanently lost.
Congenital glaucoma is an inherited form of the disease that is present at birth. The babies are born with a defect that slows the normal drainage of fluid out of the eye and are usually diagnosed by the time they turn one. In these cases there are typically some noticeable symptoms such as excessive tearing, cloudiness or haziness of the eyes, large or protruding eyes or light sensitivity. Surgery is usually performed with a very high success rate of restoring full vision.
Secondary glaucomas are complications that develop from eye surgeries, injuries or other medical conditions such as cataracts, tumors, or a condition called uveitis which causes inflammation. Uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes can result of another serious form called neovascular glaucoma.
Pigmentary glaucoma is a rare form in which pigment from the iris sheds and clogs the drainage of fluid from the eye resulting in inflammation and damage to the eye and drainage system.
Many people have never heard of astigmatism, although it is an extremely common eye condition.
Astigmatism is one type of refractive error. Nearsightedness and farsightedness are other types of refractive error. Refractive errors are not eye diseases. Refractive error is a result of and imperfection of the size and shape of the eye, which results in blurry or double vision.
If left untreated, astigmatism may cause eyestrain, headaches, and blurry vision. If you have astigmatism you may not see objects in the distance or near without some form of distortion.
Small amounts of astigmatism can go unnoticed, however, you may be suffering from eye fatigue, eyestrain, and headaches.
Astigmatism is a condition that usually can develops early in childhood. According to a study from The Ohio State University School of Optometry, 28% of school age children suffer from astigmatism. Parents should be aware that their children might not notice that their vision is blurry, not understanding that this is not normal. Nevertheless, astigmatism should be treated because vision problems can lead to learning problems and in extracurricular activities. Make sure to have your child’s eyes examined at an eye doctor’s office at least once a year.
Astigmatism is generally caused by a cornea with an irregular shape. The cornea is the front, clear layer of the eye. With astigmatism, the cornea is not round and spherical and is instead irregular having two curves instead of one curve. Astigmatism in some cases could also be caused by the lens located inside the eye that is irregular in shape.
Eyes with astigmatism distort the light that comes into the eyes because the cornea is irregularly shaped. This causes the light rays entering the eye to create two images in the back of the eye (because of the two curves), instead of one image. This is what causes the distortion in sight.
For most people, their astigmatism is fully corrected using prescription glasses or contact lenses. If you select contact lenses to correct your vision, soft contact lenses are the most common option. If for whatever reason soft contact lenses are not an option, rigid gas permeable (RGP or GP) are also a great choice. Rigid gas permeable lenses usually give the clearest vision but the adaptation process will be significantly longer. Another option are hybrid contact lenses. These contacts have a center made from a rigid gas permeable (RGP) lens and an outer ring made of soft contact lens material. This type of lens provides both excellent clarity and comfort. LASIK could be another option to correct astigmatism. LASIK usually only corrects low levels of astigmatism and some patients with higher levels of astigmatism might not be candidates.
Blepharitis is an eye condition characterized by an inflammation of the eyelids which causes redness, itching and irritation. The common eye condition is caused by either a skin disorder or a bacterial infection. Blepharitis is generally not contagious and can affect patients of any age. While it can be very uncomfortable, it usually does not pose any danger to your vision.
There are two types of blepharitis: anterior and posterior.
Anterior blepharitis occurs on the front of your eyelids in the area where the eyelashes attach to the lid. This form is less common and is usually caused by a bacterial infection or seborrheic dermatitis, which is a skin disorder (dandruff) that causes flaking and itching of the skin on the scalp and eyebrows. While it is more rare, allergies or mites on the eyelashes can also lead to this condition.
Posterior blepharitis occurs on the inner eyelid that is closer to the actual eyeball. This more common form is often caused by rosacea, dandruff or meibomian gland problems which affect the production of oil in your eyelids.
Symptoms of Blepharitis
Blepharitis can vary greatly in severity and cause a variety of symptoms which include:
If left untreated, symptoms can become more severe such as:
Treatment for Blepharitis
Treatment for blepharitis depends on the cause of the condition but a very important aspect is keeping the eyelids clean. Warm compresses are usually recommended to soak the lids and loosen any crust to be washed away. It is recommended to use a gentle cleaner (baby soap or an over the counter lid-cleansing agent) to clean the area.
For bacterial infections, antibiotic drops or ointments may be prescribed, and in serious cases steroidal treatment (usually drops) may be used.
Blepharitis is typically a recurring condition so here are some tips for dealing with flare-ups:
The most important way to increase your comfort with blepharitis is by keeping good eyelid hygiene. Speak to your doctor about products that he or she recommends.
CMV or cytomegalovirus retinitis is a vision threatening virus that causes inflammation of the retina, primarily in individuals with a compromised immune system, such as those with AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
Symptoms of CMV Retinitis
Symptoms of CMV retinitis often appear relatively suddenly. They include general blurriness, seeing flashes or floaters, sudden loss of peripheral (side) vision, or blind spots in central vision. These symptoms all appear as the virus attacks the retina, the light-sensitive layer of nerves at the back of the eye. If left untreated, the virus can cause retinal detachment and will eventually destroy the retina and damage the optic nerve, causing permanent vision loss. Usually there is no pain felt as the retinal damage is taking place. Symptoms usually start in one eye and but can spread to the other eye as well.
Causes of CMV Retinitis
Cytomegalovirus is a herpes type virus that is actually present in most adults. However, most healthy adults never experience any symptoms or problems from the virus. Individuals with a weakened immune system however, such as those with AIDS, chemotherapy or leukemia patients, newborns or the elderly are at greater risk of the virus being activated and spreading throughout the body, including the retina.
Treatment for CMV Retinitis
Treatment includes antiviral medications such as ganciclovir, foscarnet or cidofovir, which can be administered orally, via injection through a vein or directly into the eye or through a time-release implant the releases the medication at intervals. Laser surgery to improve the damaged area of the retina, such as in a retinal detachment, may also be prescribed.
Immune strengthening is also a critical part of preventing and treating CMV retinitis. Individuals with HIV or AIDS may be put on a regimen of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to boost the immune system and fight the virus. This has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the incidence of CMV retinitis in AIDS patients and reducing the damage for those that are affected.
While these treatments can stop further damage to the retina, any vision that is lost cannot be restored. Further, even if the virus is temporarily stopped, further progression may occur in the future. This is why it is critical to see a retinal specialist on a regular basis if you have had the condition or you are at risk.
A cornea transplant, also known as keratoplasty or a corneal graft, replaces damaged tissue on the clear front surface of the eye.
When disease or injury damages the cornea, eyesight is affected. Light that enters the eye becomes scattered, resulting in blurred or distorted vision. When the cornea is extremely scarred or damaged, a corneal transplant is needed to restore functional vision.
Keratoplasty is performed routinely and is regarded as the most successful of all tissue transplants. According to the National Keratoconus Foundation, over 40,000 cornea transplants are done annually in the United States.
In recent years, an innovative type of corneal transplant has gained popularity. Known as Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK), this new procedure removes a smaller and thinner portion of the cornea. In 2009, DSEK was declared by the American Academy of Ophthalmology as superior to the conventional surgery because it may provide better vision outcomes and more eye stability. It is also associated with less risk factors. However, when the majority of the cornea is damaged, a more comprehensive removal may still be necessary to facilitate a successful transplant.
Criteria for a Corneal Transplant
A multitude of reasons indicate candidacy for a corneal transplant. Possible reasons include:
Cornea Transplant Procedure
Once a patient has been recommended and approved for a corneal transplant to restore vision, the patient’s name is added to a list at an eye bank. The United States has a very advanced eye bank system, and the general wait time for a donor eye is one to two weeks. The tissue of donor corneas is checked for clarity and screened meticulously for disease before it is released for transplant.
The actual surgery is generally performed as an outpatient procedure that does not require hospitalization. General or local anesthesia may be used, depending upon the patient’s preference, age and health condition. Local anesthesia is injected into the skin surrounding the eye, which relaxes the muscles that control movement and blinking. Eye drops numb the eye itself.
Once the anesthesia has taken effect, the surgeon inspects and measures the damaged corneal area in order to decide upon the size of the transplantation. Eyelids are held open during this time. The surgeon then removes a round, button-shaped piece of the corneal tissue and replaces it with a nearly identical sized button of donor tissue. The new, healthy tissue is sutured into place. The entire procedure takes approximately one to two hours.
Following the surgery, a plastic shield must be worn over the eye in order to protect it against any inadvertent bumps or rubbing.
Rejection of the Corneal Graft
Although the vast majority of cornea transplants are successful, sometimes the new tissue is rejected. Warning signs of rejection include:
These symptoms may be experienced as soon as one month after the surgery, or as delayed as five years later. Medications can be prescribed to reverse the rejection process. If the corneal graft fails completely, the transplant can be repeated and the outcome is generally positive. Yet the total rejection rates do increase with the total number of corneal transplants.
Recovery and Healing
It can take up to a year or longer to heal completely from a corneal transplant. At the beginning, vision is blurry and the transplant site is often swollen and thicker than the rest of the cornea. As vision returns, patients are able to return to normal daily tasks and most people can return to work within three to seven days after surgery. However, heavy lifting and exercise must be avoided for the first few weeks.
To help the body accept the corneal graft, steroid eye drops must be applied for several months. A pair of eyeglasses or a protective shield must also be worn for eye safety. Depending upon the health of the eye and the healing rate, stitches may be removed at any time from three months to more than a year later. Astigmatism often occurs as a result of an irregular corneal surface, and adjustments may be made to the sutures around the new cornea in an effort to reduce this problem.
Vision after a Cornea Transplant
Vision improvement after a cornea transplant is a process that can last up to one year later. Eyeglasses or contact lenses must be worn immediately after the surgery, since the curvature of the corneal transplant will not precisely match the natural corneal curve.
When healing is complete and stitches are removed, laser surgery may be indicated to correct vision. LASIK or PRK are both procedures that can help decrease dependence on eyeglasses or contacts. An irregular corneal surface may point to the need to wear rigid gas permeable (GP) contact lenses for vision correction.
Along with congestion, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and difficulty breathing, individuals with allergies often suffer from eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis resulting in red, watery, itchy and sometimes swollen eyes. Just as irritants cause an allergic response in your nasal and respiratory system, your eyes also react with an oversensitive immune response, triggered by an environmental substance that most people’s immune systems ignore. Most individuals with allergies also suffer from eye allergies which affect millions of North Americans, particularly with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) which is common during the spring, summer and fall.
Eye allergies, or any allergies for that matter, occur when the immune system is hypersensitized to a stimulus in the environment that comes into contact with the eye. The allergen stimulates the antibodies in the cells of your eyes to respond by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause the eyes and surrounding tissue to become inflamed, red, watery, burning and itchy.
Eye allergens can include:
Allergies can go from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating. Knowing how to alleviate symptoms and reduce exposure can greatly improve your comfort and quality of life, particularly during allergy season which can last from April until October.
To reduce exposure to allergens:
Treatment for the uncomfortable symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include over-the-counter and prescription drops and medications. It is best to know the source of the allergy reaction to avoid symptoms. Often people wait until the allergy response is more severe to take allergy medication, but most allergy medications work best when taken just prior to being exposed to the allergen. Consult your eye doctor about your symptoms and which treatment is best for you.
Non-prescription medications include:
Prescription medications include eyedrops such as antihistamines, mast-cell stabilizers, or stronger decongestants as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.
Immunotherapy which are allergy injections given by an allergist are sometimes also helpful to assist your body in building up immunity to the allergens that elicit the allergic response.
If no allergy medicine is on hand, even cool compresses and artificial tears can help alleviate symptoms.
Finding the right treatment for your allergies can make all the difference in your quality of life, particularly during the time of year when most of us like to enjoy the outdoors.
Eye floaters are spots, squiggles or flecks that appear to drift into your visual field. Usually they are harmless, a benign, albeit annoying sign of aging. If however, your floaters are accompanied by a sudden loss of vision, pain or flashes, they could be a sign of an underlying serious eye condition and should be checked out by an eye doctor as soon as possible.
What are Eye Floaters and Spots?
Floaters, like their name, are specks or spots that float in and out of your visual field. Usually they move away when you try to focus on them. They can appear as dark dots, threads, squiggles, webs, or even rings.
But what causes them to appear? Floaters are shadows from clumps of fibers within the vitreous, the jelly-like substance in your eye, that are cast on the retina at the back of the eye. Usually, floaters don’t go away, but you tend to get used to them and eventually notice them less. Patients usually see them more when they are looking at a plain background, like the blue sky or a white wall.
In most cases, there is no treatment for floaters, people just get used to them, however if there are more serious symptoms that accompany them, there could be an underlying problem such as inflammation, diabetes or a retinal tear that needs to be addressed and treated. If the floaters are so serious that they are blocking your vision, a surgical procedure to remove the clumps may be performed.
What Causes Floaters?
Age: Although floaters may be present at any age, they are often more apparent as a result of aging. With time, the fibers in the vitreous begin to shrink and clump up as they pull away from the back of the eye. These clumps block some of the light passing through your eye, causing the shadows which appear as floaters. You are also more likely to develop floaters if you are nearsighted.
Eye Surgery or Injury: Individuals who have previously had an injury, trauma or eye surgery are more susceptible to floaters. This includes cataract surgery and laser surgery as well as other types of eye surgery.
Eye Disease: Certain eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, eye tumors or severe inflammation can lead to floaters.
Retinal Tears or Detachment: Retinal tears or detachments can be a cause of floaters. A torn retina can lead to a retinal detachment which is a very serious condition where the retina separates from the back of the eye and if untreated can lead to permanent vision loss.
When to See a Doctor
There are some cases where seeing spots is accompanied by other symptoms that could be a sign that there is a more serious underlying problem. The most common of these is seeing flashes of light. This often happens when the vitreous is pulling on the retina which would be a warning sign of a retinal detachment. Retinal detachment must be treated immediately or you can risk a permanent loss of vision. Flashes of light sometimes also appear as symptoms of migraine headaches.
If you experience a sudden onset or increase in floaters, flashes of light, pain, loss of side vision or other vision disturbances, see a doctor immediately. Further, if you have recently had eye surgery or a trauma and you are experiencing floaters during your recovery, it is advised to tell your doctor.
Generally, floaters are merely a harmless annoyance but keep an eye on your symptoms. As with any sudden or serious change in your health, it is worth having them checked out if they are really bothering you. In some cases, they may be an early warning sign of a serious problem that requires swift treatment to preserve your vision.
Farsightedness or hyperopia is a refractive error in which distant objects are clear, while close objects appear blurry. A refractive error occurs when the eye is not able to refract (or bend) the light that comes in into a single point of focus, therefore not allowing images to be seen clearly. Nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are the most common types of refractive error.
What Causes Hyperopia?
Hyperopia is usually caused when the shape of the eye is shortened or the cornea (which is the clear front surface of the eye) is flatter than normal. This prevents light that enters the eye from focusing properly on the retina, and rather focuses behind it. This condition causes close objects to appear blurry, while typically objects at a distance remain clear.
Farsightedness, which is less common than nearsightedness, is often an inherited condition. It is common in children who experience some amount of hyperopia during development which they will eventually grow out of as the eye continues to grow and lengthen. Sometimes these children don’t even have symptoms as their eyes are able to accommodate to make up for the error.
Symptoms of Hyperopia
Symptoms of hyperopia vary. As mentioned, sometimes people with hyperopia don’t experience any symptoms while others will experience severe vision difficulties. In addition to blurred near vision, often squinting, eye strain and headaches will occur when focusing on near objects.
Treatment for Farsightedness
Farsightedness is easily treated with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. These lenses, will correct for the refractive error by changing the way the light bends upon entering the eyes. Refractive eye surgeries such as LASIK or PRK that reshape the cornea may also be options for vision correction. Treatment for farsightedness depends on a number of factors including your age, lifestyle, eye health and overall health.
Farsightedness vs. Presbyopia
Farsightedness is not the same as presbyopia, an age-related condition that also affects one’s ability to see near objects clearly. Presbyopia is caused when the natural lens of the eye begins to age and stiffens, causing difficulty focusing.
Farsightedness or hyperopia is a common refractive error that is easily treated. If you are experiencing difficulty seeing close objects it’s worth having an eye exam to determine the cause, ensure your eyes are healthy and to find a solution to improve your vision and quality of life.
Keratoconus is a rare, progressive disease that affects the cornea, which is the clear, transparent layer at the front of the eye. The cornea is responsible for focusing the light that comes into your eye onto the retina for clear, sharp vision. Keratoconus causes the corneal tissue to thin out and bulge into a cone-like shape which deflects the light entering the eye and distorts vision.
Causes of Keratoconus
The exact cause of keratoconus is not known. The disease usually starts to appear in the late teens or twenties and can affect one or both eyes, usually progressing at a slow pace and slowing or stabilizing after around 10-20 years. It is believed that there is a genetic component as often it runs in families.
New research suggests that there may be a link between keratoconus and oxidative damage which weakens the cornea. There is also an association with overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and chronic eye irritation.
Symptoms of Keratoconus
With the gradual change in the shape of the cornea, vision becomes progressively worse. The patient may experience nearsightedness, astigmatism, distorted vision (straight lines look wavy), blurry vision, light sensitivity and glare, and eye redness or swelling. Typically, patient’s eyeglass prescription will change often as the vision becomes worse and contact lenses will be difficult to wear due to discomfort and improper fit.
When keratoconus become more severe (which usually takes a long time however on occasion can happen rather quickly), the cornea can begin to swell and form scar tissue. This scar tissue can result in even further visual distortion and blurred vision.
Treatment for Keratoconus
In the early stages of the disease, standard eyeglasses and soft contact lenses will usually correct the nearsightedness and astigmatism experienced by the patient. As the disease progresses however, glasses and soft contact lenses may no longer correct vision and soft lenses may become uncomfortable. This is when other forms of vision correction will be recommended.
At the more advanced stage of keratoconus rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses, scleral or semi-scleral lenses may be used for increased comfort and visual acuity. Since they are more rigid, RGP and scleral lenses are able to create a smooth, round shape around the cornea, creating a smoother surface for better vision. Scleral or semi-scleral lenses have a larger diameter which covers the entire cornea and reaches over into the white part of the eye, which is known as the sclera. Many patients find these more comfortable than regular RGPs and find that they move around less when the eyes move. The main disadvantage of these rigid lenses is that for some, they are somewhat less comfortable than soft lenses and they must be continually refit as the shape of the eye changes.
Whether it is glasses or contact lenses being used to correct vision, patients will likely have to undergo many tests and prescription changes as their vision needs change.
Intacs are small, surgically implanted plastic inserts which are placed on the cornea to flatten it back to shape. Usually they are able to restore clear vision, with the continued use of glasses. Intacs are often recommended when contact lenses and eyeglasses are no longer able to correct vision adequately. Intacs take about 10 minutes to insert and can delay the need for corneal transplant.
In corneal crosslinking, a UV light and eye drops are used to strengthen and stiffen the cornea which helps to reduce bulging and restore the cornea to its natural shape.
When corneal scarring occurs and eyeglasses and contact lenses no longer help, doctors may suggest a corneal transplant to replace the corneal with healthy donor tissue to restore vision. Most patients will still require eyeglasses or contact lenses for clear vision following the transplant.
Keratoconus is a condition that requires ongoing treatment by a qualified eye doctor. If you or a loved one suffers from this disease make sure that you find an eye doctor that you like and trust to accompany you on this journey.
Reduced vision is defined as vision that can not be corrected completely using either contact lenses, eyeglasses, or surgery, and is blurry (at the level of at least 20/70), or limited in its view field. Low vision is sometimes caused by injury to the eye or brain, and it can be inherited. However the main cause of low vision is eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
If you have low vision you have some sight. However completing normal activities, including driving and reading, can be hard or even impossible.
Low vision is a condition that the elderly suffer from, although it is possible for children and adults to have low vision. After a life of seeing normally, losing your vision can be hard, or even traumatic, and can potentially lead to frustration, or even depression.
What is especially hard about low vision is that many people are unable to work, and lose their existing jobs. In 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey showed that the employment rate for Americans with low vision was 24 percent.
If you have low vision, you probably feel disconnected from the rest of the world. With low vision, it’s hard to read, see images on television or a computer screen, and impossible to drive. You may not be able to be independant and run your own errands, shop for food, or visit friends and family. Sometimes people with a vision impairment suffer with this burden alone, while others must rely completely on friends and relatives on a daily basis.
There are many devices and ways to manage low vision, which can help people suffering with low vision to continue leading productive and independent lives. Some of the devices that can help make the most out of remaining vision are magnifiers, both handheld and mounted on eyeglasses, and telescopes.
Signs that it is time to see an eye doctor include loss of peripheral vision, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, night blindness, needing more light to see, spots or floaters, and reading difficulty. This symptoms could indicate that a cataract is beginning in your eye. Or these problems could be signs of an eye condition such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, or macular degeneration. Make sure to see your eye doctor before any eye condition becomes so serious that vision loss occurs.
If it’s not possible to correct your vision loss with surgery, medical treatment, or eyewear, your eye doctor will send you to a specialist in low vision care. A low vision specialist, who is usually an optometrist, will evaluate your vision loss. Once he or she determines the type and degree of vision loss you are suffering from, this specialist can create a treatment plan including low vision aids, and guidance in using devices that help you to live with vision loss.
Additionally, a low vision specialist has knowledge of many different types of aids for low vision, including large-print and audio books, specially-designed lights, and signature guides that are used to sign checks and other documents. Sometimes eye care professionals that are treating vision loss recommend counseling to help their patients learn to live with the changes that low vision brings.
Low vision is a condition, often caused by a number of eye diseases which damage parts of the eye, in which individuals have significantly reduced vision. Individuals with low vision have some sight, but usually it is not sufficient to get by in daily life without some assistance. Often they are not able to read, drive, cook or work on a computer without a visual aid. Today there are many low vision aids available on the market to help those with low vision to function independently in performing daily tasks.
Computer use is one activity that often requires assistance and the good news is the technology to aid computer users with low vision is always improving.
Here are some devices and programs on the market to help:
There are a number of ways to enlarge the text on your computer screen in addition to handheld magnifiers.
Via Your Computer Operating System: Both newer generation Windows and Mac operating systems have screen magnifiers built in. These do not have as many capabilities as purchased screen reader programs but for many with mild low vision, they may be sufficient.
Via Browser: When using the Internet most browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer) allow you to change the size of the page or text on the screen to suit your needs. To enlarge the text on a PC simply hold down the Control (“Ctrl”) key on your keyboard and either tap the “” or “” keys.
Additionally, the browser might have a drop down option under the “view” tab that allows you to Zoom the screen in or out or make the text larger or smaller. Keep in mind that if you are using a larger higher quality screen, this will enable you to see bigger and more clearly as well.
Screen magnification programs: there are a number of free and paid software programs that will enlarge the text, picture and images on your computer screen.
Screen Readers and Text to Speech Programs:
There are a number of programs that enable you to “read” what is on the computer without needing to see it – these are designed for people that are totally blind as well. These programs work by scanning the text and icons on a page and converting it to speech which is read aloud. Some of these programs also have a cursor on the page that moves along with the voice.
Up to date Microsoft and Apple operating systems do have simple, built in screen readers but they may be limited. The Chrome browser and Android devices do as well. Nevertheless depending on your abilities, you may prefer to purchase a program with more comprehensive options and usability.
If you are looking for something simpler, text-to-speech programs exist in which you select a portion of the text you want to read and the program reads it for you.
Adjusting your screen to the highest contrast will enable the letters and images on the monitor to stand out. Font should be adjusted to achieve a dark text on a light background. Further it is advisable to reduce glare as much as possible. This may require adjusting window shades and indoor lights or even purchasing an anti-glare screen to reduce glare that can’t be eliminated.
You can purchase special keyboards, mice and monitor magnifiers made specifically to enhance usability for those with low vision. Purchasing a large LCD screen for your monitor will also help to enhance visibility.
Computers can be a window to open our world to information, connections, work and play. Individuals with low vision can access all of this as well with the assistance of specialized software, devices and programs using the strengths and senses that they do possess.
Nearsightedness, technically known as myopia, is a condition which causes difficulty focusing on objects at a distance, while near vision remains normal. Myopia is one of the most common vision problems worldwide and it is on the rise.
Myopia Signs and Symptoms
People with myopia are usually able to see well up close, but have difficulty seeing objects at a distance. Due to the fact that they may be straining or squinting to see into the distance, they may develop headaches, eye fatigue or eye strain.
Myopia is a refractive error caused by an irregular shaped cornea that affects the way light is focused on the retina. For clear vision, light should come to a focus point directly onto the retina. In myopia, the cornea is longer than usual, resulting in a focus point that falls in front of the retina, causing distant objects to appear blurry, while close objects can be seen normally.
Myopia typically has a genetic component as it often appears in multiple members of a family and it usually begins to show signs during childhood, often getting progressively worse until stabilizing around age 20. There may also be environmental factors that contribute to myopia such as work that requires focusing on close objects for an extended period of time and spending too much time indoors.
Diagnosis of Myopia
Myopia is diagnosed by an eye examination with an qualified optometrist. During the exam the optometrist will determine the visual acuity of the eye to prescribe eye glasses or contact lenses. A prescription for myopia will be a negative number such as -1.75.
Treatment for Myopia
Myopia is typically treated with corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses and in certain cases refractive surgery such as LASIK or PRK is an option. Surgery is the most risky treatment as it requires permanently changing the shape of the cornea. Other treatments involve implanting a lens that reshapes the cornea called a phakic intra-ocular lens or vision therapy. A treatment called Ortho-k, in which the patient wears corneal reshaping contact lenses at night to see without correction during the day can be another option.
While some people require vision correction throughout the day, others may only need it only during certain tasks such as driving, watching television or viewing a whiteboard in school. The type of treatment depends on the overall health of your eye and your eye and vision needs.
The term Ocular Hypertension refers to higher than normal pressure in one or both eyes. When the intraocular pressure (IOP) in your eye is higher than normal it can cause nerve damage and vision loss if an eye disease like glaucoma goes untreated.
Ocular Hypertension on its own does not mean you will definitely develop glaucoma, but it does make you a “glaucoma suspect” Having a diagnosis of Ocular Hypertension does mean that more eye health evaluations will be required to monitor and regulate your intraocular pressure.
Studies estimate that about 2% to 3% of the general population may have ocular hypertension.
There are no apparent signs such as eye redness or pain associated with ocular hypertension. That is why it’s so important to see your eye doctor for regular eye health evaluations.
Eye care professionals determine the intraocular pressure (IOP), the fluid pressure inside your eye, with a device called a tonometer. They may numb your eye first with eye drops before using a small probe that gently rests against your eye’s surface. Another type of tonometer utilizes a puff of air directed onto your eye’s surface. This method does not require numbing drops.
There are two primary mechanisms that can cause ocular hypertension. Either inadequate drainage or excessive production of aqueous fluid may cause the intraocular pressure (IOP) to become elevated.
People with elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) are thought to be at risk for the development of glaucoma. If there are additional risk factors including family history, diabetes or hypertension, or being of African or Hispanic heritage, doctors will often consider prescribing medications to lower the pressure to prevent any vision loss.
The price of eye drops can be costly in some cases, and they may occasionally cause some adverse side effects. Your eye care professional will consider many factors before deciding to either monitor your IOP more often, or to prescribe ocular hypotensive medications if s/he detects that you may be developing glaucoma.
Since ocular hypertension and glaucoma have no obvious symptoms until vision has been lost, regular eye health examinations with IOP measurements are recommended, especially if you have a family history of glaucoma or any of the other risk factors for developing the disease
All types of light, ranging from interior lighting fixtures to streetlights and to the bright rays of the sun, have the potential to cause eye discomfort or pain. Photophobia refers to this ocular sensitivity to light.
An eye irritation or infection may cause photophobia. Other culprits include albinism, migraines, recent eye surgery or a variety of vision problems. In rare incidences, a congenital disease or certain medications may increase your sensitivity to light. The retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye, is responsible for processing images. Treatment for photophobia involves treating the underlying cause that is disturbing the retina.
With light-sensitivity, the retina sends signals to the brain that are interpreted as discomfort or pain. The level of discomfort is in direct proportion with the strength of the light source, and it doesn’t matter if the light is man-made or natural.
When exposed to bright light, symptoms of itching, burning, wincing and squinting may all be experienced. Excessive tear production is another sign of photophobia.
If you suffer from light-sensitivity, you should schedule a consultation with your eye care professional.
People with lighter-colored eyes generally have more of a tendency towards photophobia, and intense light is likely to bother them. If you have light eyes, the lower quantity of pigment is less efficient at diffusing the light beams.
Photophobia may be temporary, or it can appear as a permanent side-effect of an underlying eye condition. The only way to treat photophobia is therefore to get to the root of the problem with a comprehensive eye exam. It’s important to mention any current medications to your eye doctor, as they may be associated with photophobia.
Pingueculae and Pterygia are both benign growths that develop on the surface of the eye. While often grouped together, there are some differences in expression, symptoms, causes and treatment so here is an explanation of each condition and the differences between them.
Pingueculae (pinguecula in singular) are growths that occur on the conjunctiva or the thin clear layer that covers the white part of the eye known as the sclera. They can be diagnosed on patients of any age, but tend to be more common in middle age. Pingueculae are typically yellowish in color and appear as a small, raised, sometimes triangular protrusion close to the cornea.
Causes of Pinguecula
Pinguecula occur when bumps, typically containing fat and/or calcium, form on the tissue of the conjunctiva. The exact cause of pinguecula is not known but there is a correlation between unprotected exposure to sunlight, wind, excessive dryness and dust.
Symptoms of Pinguecula
Pingueculae may have no symptoms or they can cause feelings of dryness, irritation or feeling like there is a foreign body in your eye. In more severe cases they may become itchy, inflamed, red and sore.
Treatment of Pinguecula
Often, there is no treatment necessary other than to protect the eye from the sun and other elements. If however, the pinguecula is causing discomfort or other issues, there are treatments available depending on the symptoms. Dryness, irritation and itchiness can sometimes be treated with eye drops or ointment and in cases where there is swelling, steroid eye drops along with anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed. In rare cases that the pinguecula is causing serious problems such as vision problems, untreatable discomfort or preventing blinking, or the patient is unhappy with the way it looks, it may have to be removed surgically.
Pytergia (pytergium in singular) are wedge-shaped growths on the surface of the cornea (the sclera), made of fibrous conjunctival tissue and containing blood vessels, which sometimes make it appear pink. Pytergia often grow out of pinguecula and tend to be more visible.
Causes of Pytergia
Like pinguecula, pytergia are believed to be caused by extended exposure to UV rays from the sun and are sometimes called “surfer’s eye”. They are more common in adults (ages 20 – 50) who live in dry, sunny climates and spend significant time outdoors. Risks increase in those who do not properly protect their eyes by using sunglasses and hats when they are outdoors.
Symptoms of Pytergia
Pytergia may occur in one or both eyes and usually grow in the corner of the eye closest to the nose in toward the cornea. Very often there are no symptoms however some people may experience dry eyes, redness, irritation, the feeling that something is in their eye and inflammation. Pytergia may also cause discomfort for contact lense wearers. If the pytergium is serious it could grow far enough into the cornea to obstruct vision or cause the cornea to change shape resulting in astigmatism.
Treatment for Pytergia
If necessary, treatment for symptoms of pytergia may be similar to those used for pytergia such as lubricating eye drops or steroidal drops or creams to reduce inflammation. Surgery is more common for pytergia because of the more obvious change in appearance and because of the potential for vision disturbances. Sometimes a conjunctival graft is performed to prevent recurrence which is when a small piece of tissue is grafted onto the area where the pytergia was removed.
Pytergia and pingueculae are often completely benign conditions but should be monitored by a doctor to ensure they do not get worse and pose a threat to vision. Nevertheless, these growths go to show how important it is to protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun.
Pink eye or conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye infections, especially in children. The infection is an acute inflammation which causes redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, which is the clear mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and the surface of the eye. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies such as pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes. Some forms of pink eye can be highly contagious and easily spread in schools and at home.
Pink eye develops when the conjunctiva or thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the eyelid and the white part of the eye becomes inflamed. Symptoms can occur in one or both eyes and include:
There are three main types of pink eye infections: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.
Viral Conjunctivitis is usually caused by an adenovirus, the same virus that produces the recognizable red and watery eyes, sore throat, cough and runny nose of the common cold or upper respiratory infection. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious usually spread because of poor hygiene especially a lack of hand washing.
Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis usually last from five days to a week but may last longer. Since there is generally no medical treatment for a viral infection you have to wait for the infection to run its course. To avoid spreading the infection to others, it is recommended to stay home from school or work until the symptoms disappear which is usually after 3-5 days or up to a week.
Viral conjunctivitis typically causes a light discharge and very watery, red eyes. To relieve discomfort, you can apply cool compresses to the eyes and artificial tears.
Bacterial pink eye is usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria and is often characterized by a significant amount of yellow, sticky discharge. Also contagious, bacterial pink eye can be picked up from bacteria found anywhere and often spread to the eye by touching them with unclean hands. Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk for bacterial pink eye due to the handling of lenses and unclean contact lens cases.
Treatment is usually administered by antibiotic eye drops which should begin to show improvement after three or four days, however the infection can also resolve itself after a week to 10 days without treatment. If you do use antibiotic drops, you can return to work or school 24 hours after you being treatment.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not infectious or contagious as it is an allergic reaction to something in the environment such as pollen, pet dander or smoke. Symptoms, which occur in both eyes, include redness, itching and excessive tearing.
The first step in treating allergic conjunctivitis is to remove or avoid the irritant, if possible. Applying cool compresses and artificial tears can help to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be
prescribed. In cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis, topical steroid eye drops are used.
In all cases of pink eye, practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent from catching and spreading the infection. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and don’t touch your eyes with your hands, especially if you work with or around small children.
If you have allergies, try to stay indoors on days with a high pollen count and to keep doors and windows closed. Inside the house, clean air duct filters, vacuum and dust frequently to reduce the presence of allergens.
Ptosis is a pathological eye condition in which the eyelid falls or droops. It is a condition that can affect adults and children (although it is most common in the elderly) and the degree to which the eyelid droops can vary from barely noticeable to completely covering the pupil (the black spot in the middle of your eye that allows light to enter). Fortunately, there is treatment for the condition.
Symptoms and Signs of Ptosis
Ptosis can be identified by an abnormal drooping of one or both of the upper eyelids. When it only affects one lid, you can notice that the two lids are not in alignment. Often an individual with ptosis will tilt their head backward or raise their eyebrows to see more clearly, which can eventually result in headaches or neck issues. Sometimes when the eyelid droops below the pupil, it is accompanied by obscured vision or causes other eye and vision problems.
What Causes Ptosis?
In adults, ptosis is most frequently a condition related to aging when the muscles responsible for controlling the eyelid, called the levator muscles, become weakened. Ptosis can also be a result of an eye injury or an after-effect of certain types of eye surgery.
In children, ptosis can be a congenital condition in which the levator muscles do not develop properly. If not treated this can lead to problems with the development with the child’s visual system and may cause amblyopia (lazy eye), astigmatism or strabismus (crossed eyes).
Treatment for Ptosis
Prior to a treatment plan, your doctor will complete a comprehensive eye exam along with some other tests to determine the cause of the ptosis. While the treatment does depend on the cause of the condition, surgery to repair the eyelid function is the most common treatment.
The surgical procedure, called blepharoplasty, repairs the levator muscle of the eyelid or attaches the lid to other muscles that can lift the eye (such as the forehead). In mild cases, small adjustments might be made to repair the muscle while other times additional procedures might be done such as removing some of the skin from the lid. The surgeon will determine what needs to be done to tighten the levator muscles or otherwise return the eyelids to their normal position. As with any surgical procedure there are risks to this surgery and in the most serious cases, movement may not return fully or at all to the eyelids.
In children, surgery is usually recommended to avoid potential or existing vision problems. This may come along with additional treatment for amblyopia or strabismus to strengthen the weak eye such as wearing an eye patch, eyeglasses or using eye drops. Any child diagnosed with ptosis will need to have regular evaluations with an eye doctor to monitor the condition and the child’s vision.
If you suspect you or a loved one may have ptosis, try looking at some old pictures to see if there is a noticeable change and of course make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible to assess if there is a problem.
A retinal detachment is a serious eye emergency in which the retina (the lining of the back of the eye) becomes separated and pulls away from the surrounding tissue. When the retina is out of place, the eye cannot properly process incoming light and if not fixed quickly, permanent vision loss can result.
The retina contains the light sensitive cells of the eye that convert light into neural impulses that communicate with the optic nerve and the brain, enabling visual processing. When the retinal cells become detached from the supportive tissue they no longer get the nourishment and support they need to function and in a relatively short period of time can suffer permanent damage.
Signs and Symptoms
A retinal detachment doesn’t hurt and can happen very suddenly with little warning. Signs that you may be experiencing this condition include sudden onset of floaters, spots, or flashes of light in the visual field. These symptoms may be accompanied by blurred vision, reduced peripheral or side vision and the sensation that there is a curtain coming down over your visual field from the top or side.
Causes and Risk Factors
Retinal detachment can be caused by an injury to the eye or face, as a result of diabetic retinopathy or very high nearsightedness (in which the retina is thinner than in normal eyes). It can also result from changes in the vitreous of the eye due to aging, eye or other systemic diseases or following an eye surgery.
Factors that put you at risk increased include:
Treatment for Retinal Detachment
Retinal detachment can be treated by a number of surgical procedures, the type of surgery depending upon the type and severity of the detachment. These procedures include:
Pneumatic retinopexy: In this procedure the doctor injects gas or silicone oil into the eye to push the retina back into place. This is usually done when the detachment is just started and is very mild in nature. The surgeon may then need to use other procedures to secure the retina into place such as photocoagulation which is a laser procedure or cryopexy which uses a frozen probe to reattach the tissue. While the gas will absorb into the body, the oil needs to be removed following the procedure.
Scleral buckling: This procedure involves indenting the outer surface of the eye toward the retina by attaching a soft piece of silicone around the sclera or white part of the eye. If necessary, this allows the surgeon to drain the fluids that have accumulated between the retina and the supportive tissue and then the retina is reattached using laser photocoagulation or cryopexy.
Vitrectomy: In this procedure the doctor removes the vitreous fluid in your eye which is the gel-like substance that may be causing the retina to detach. The retina can then be flattened using air, gas or oil. This procedure is often combined with scleral buckling as mentioned above.
Successful treatment for retinal detachment depends on a lot of factors including the severity of the detachment, the location and how quickly it was diagnosed and treated. Sometimes full vision is not restored. If you have risk factors for retinal detachment you should make sure that you get frequent eye exams and see your eye doctor immediately if you experience any changes in your vision.
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an eye disease that is inherited, and very rare. About one in four thousand Americans are affected by this disease. The retina, which is the light-sensitive portion of the eye, degenerates progressively over time. The result of this degeneration is the loss of peripheral vision, loss of central vision, night blindness, and sometimes blindness.
Retinitis Pigmentosa Symptoms
Childhood is when the first symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa generally appear. Usually both eyes are implicated in the disease. Sometimes RP doesn’t appear until older age, at age 30 or even older.
The main symptom of RP in the beginning stages is night blindness. Tunnel vision may develop in the later stages of the disease, where central vision is affected, and only a small portion of sight is available.
One study of patients suffering from RP revealed that, in patients 45 years and older, 52% had at least 20/40 central vision in one eye, 25% had 20/200 vision or below, and 0.5% were completely blind.
Causes of Retinitis Pigmentosa
Very little is known about the causes behind RP, beyond that it is an inherited disease. Scientists believe that defective molecules in our genes cause RP. This explains why the disease affects patients so differently.
If one parent carries the defective gene, it’s possible to get RP, even if your parents do not have the disease. Approximately one percent of the population are carriers of the RP recessive gene. Sometimes this recessive gene is passed on to the child, who will then develop retinitis pigmentosa.
RP affects the retina in the eye. The disease causes the light-sensitive cells that are located in the retina to die gradually. Most often, the cells that are used for night and peripheral vision, called rod cells, are affected. Sometimes the cells that are used to see color and for central vision, called cones, are also affected.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The main diagnostic tool employed is visual field testing. This test determines how much peripheral vision loss has occurred. Other diagnostic tools may be used to test night vision and color vision.
Few treatments exist for RP. What is available helps conditions associated with RP, not the disease itself. For patients older than 25, there is a prosthesis system that was recently approved. This system captures images via glasses, and transmits the signal captures to an implanted device located on the retina.
Most treatments center around helping the patient learn to deal with their vision loss. Psychological counseling, and occupational therapy, may be recommended. Technological instruments that help with low vision, such as illuminated magnifiers, can help patients with RP see as well as possible with their limited vision. Some doctors recommend vitamin A supplements as there is some evidence that vitamin A might help delay the progression of the disease.
For the future, scientists are hopeful that there will be additional treatments for RP, including new drug treatments and retinal implants.
A stye (known by eye doctors as a hordeolum) is an infection of an oil gland which forms a pimple-like bump on the base of the eyelid or within the eyelid itself. Sytes can be uncomfortable, causing swelling, pain, redness, discomfort, and sometimes excessive tearing. If the stye is large and it distorts the front surface of the eyes, it can cause blurred vision.
The oil glands on the eyelid sometimes become blocked with dirt, dead skin, or a buildup of oil. When this occurs, bacteria can grow inside. Blockage is also commonly from eye cosmetics that block the orifices within the lid. This blockage causes the gland to become infected and inflamed, resulting in a stye. A stye can form on the inside or the outside of the eyelid and can cause swelling around the eye, sometimes affecting the entire eyelid.
Styes are treated with antibiotics, often in moderate and severe cases with a prescription for oral antibiotics to reduce the bacteria responsible for the infection. Treatment for a stye is recommended otherwise there is a likelihood of recurrence. Applying a hot compress to the eye for 10-15 minutes a few times throughout the day will bring some relief and speed up the healing process.
Similar to a pimple, the stye will likely rupture, drain and heal on its own. Occasionally a stye, especially one on the inside of the eyelid will not resolve itself and may require the assistance of an eye doctor for additional treatment. In such a case the stye is surgically opened and drained to reduce the swelling and cosmetic issues associated with the style.
You should never pop a stye! This can cause the bacteria to spread and worsen the infection. The infection can then spread around the top and bottom eyelids and even reach the brain. If a stye is getting worse, painful, or irritated, contact your eye doctor for treatment.
In cases where styes occur frequently, your eye doctor may decide to prescribe topical antibiotic ointment or a cleansing regimen to prevent recurrence.
Similar to a stye, a chalazion is a blocked oil gland on the eyelid that becomes enlarged. The main difference between a chalazion and stye is that the chalazion is usually non-infectious. A chalazion in most occasions is an old hordeolum that did not resolve. Treatment involves lid hygiene, warm compresses, and lid massage. In most cases, a chalazion requires surgical removal.
Uveitis is a general term for an inflammatory response in the eye that can be caused by a broad range of diseases or conditions. It is called uveitis because the area that is inflamed is the uvea, although the condition can also affect other areas in the eye such as the lens, the optic nerve, the retina and the vitreous. Uveitis can cause swelling and tissue damage and lead to reduced vision or in more serious cases, even blindness.
What is the Uvea?
The uvea is a layer in the middle of the eye containing three main elements including: the choroid, which is a network of small blood vessels which provides nutrients to the retina; the iris, which is the colored layer around the pupil; and the ciliary body which produces fluid to shape the lens and provide nutrients to keep it healthy.
Types of Uveitis
Uveitis is classified by four different types, depending on the location of the inflammation within the eye. Anterior uveitis, which is the most common form, is when the iris is inflamed, sometimes in combination with the ciliary body. Intermediate uveitis is inflammation of the ciliary body and posterior uveitis is when the choroid is inflamed. When the entire uvea is inflamed, this is called diffuse or pan-uveitis.
Symptoms of Uveitis
Uveitis generally affects individuals between the ages of 20 and 50 and can present a variety of symptoms depending on the cause. The condition can affect one or both eyes and sometimes the symptoms can come on very rapidly. They include:
If you experiences these symptoms seek medical attention immediately. Uveitis is usually a chronic disease which can lead to vision loss as well as other eye problems such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and cataracts.
Causes of Uveitis
The cause of uveitis is still somewhat of a mystery. It is often found in connection with eye injuries, viral infections, toxins or tumors in the eye or with systemic autoimmune disorders (such as AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis), or inflammatory disorders (such as Crohn’s disease, colitis or Multiple Sclerosis).
Treatment for Uveitis
Uveitis treatment is designed to reduce and eliminate inflammation and pain and to prevent damage to the tissues within the eye, as well as to restore and prevent vision loss. The inflammation is typically treated with anti-inflammatory steroid eye drops, pills, dissolving capsules or injections, depending on where the condition presents in the eye. Additional medications or treatments may be prescribed depending on the cause of the condition. For example, when the cause is an autoimmune disease, immunosuppressant medications may also be used. If there is a viral infection or elevated intraocular pressure, appropriate medications will be given to treat those issues. Often uveitis is a chronic disease so it’s important to see the eye doctor any time the symptoms appear.
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