Eye conditions - flashes & floaters, Dry eyes and Cataracts

Eye Conditions

Flashes & Floaters

Floaters are extremely common, and are sometimes associated with flashing lights in the eye, especially when they first appear. They normally affect one eye, but may affect both eyes at the same time.

They're common, affecting approximately 2/3 of the population over the age of 50. However, they can occur at any age.

Most floaters are innocuous and there is no need to worry. However, there is a slight chance that the floaters may be a sign of retinal detachment, so if you notice new floaters, then you need to have your eyes examined by an optometrist as a matter of urgency.

Please contact us urgently to arrange a PEARS appointment so that we can rule out possible retinal detachment.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes occur when the eyes either don’t make enough tears, or the quality of the tears produced is reduced, which means the tears can evaporate rapidly from the surface of the eye, allowing the eye to dry. Often, the reduced tear quality is a result of blockage or inflammation of the oil glands within the lid margin. 

The symptoms can be extremely variable, causing anything from mild irritation to severe discomfort.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis can cause the eyelids to become red, itchy and sometimes slightly swollen too.

Blepharitis affects the eyelid margin, near the roots of the eyelashes. It is commonly caused by bacteria that normally live on our skin, that produce a toxin that causes inflammation. The lid margin often looks 'crusty' and when seen under a microscope, the appearance can be similar to dandruff.

Cataracts

Cataracts are extremely common. In fact, the majority of people over 65 have some cataract development. If you have been told you have cataracts, don’t be alarmed. A cataract is simply a loss of transparency of the lens inside the eye. Looking through a cataract can be thought of as a little bit like looking through a dirty window rather than a clean one.

Not all cataracts cause symptoms, if a cataract causes no symptoms it can usually be left alone. If symptoms such as blurred vision occur, then cataracts can be treated very successfully with surgery. This involves replacing the cloudy natural lens with a clear artificial lens implant. The implanted lens allows light to reach the retina at the back of the eye, which enables you to see things clearly again.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions which damage the optic nerve. This nerve carries information from the light sensitive layer in your eye, the retina, to the brain where it is perceived as an image. Sometimes glaucoma is caused by raised fluid pressure in the eye, but it can also occur with normal pressures. There are several risk factors for developing glaucoma including:

Family History
If a close relative (parent/sibling) has glaucoma, you should have annual eye examinations to detect any signs of the disease as early as possible.

Myopia
Very short sighted people are more at risk of developing glaucoma.

How is glaucoma detected?

There are few tests that can help detect glaucoma:

  1. Measuring the pressure inside the eye - often a puff of air or a contact tonometer after drops have been instilled into the eyes.
  2. ​Examination of your visual field - usually, a machine where you press a button when you see lights in your peripheral vision.
  3. Examination of your optic nerve by your optometrist, either by looking into your eyes or performing a 3D OCT scan.

Age Related Macula Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of visual loss in people aged over 60 years old. It is caused by degeneration of the macula, which is the central and most sensitive part of the retina.

Without the use of the macula, tasks like reading small print and recognising faces become difficult or impossible.

The biggest risk factor is age, other risk factors are a family history of the condition, smoking, and possibly a poor diet lacking in fruit and brightly coloured vegetables.

There are two main types of Age Related Macula Degeneration - often termed DRY AMD and WET AMD

In the WET form, there is a proliferation of abnormal blood vessels under the macula.  The WET form is usually more sudden in onset and can cause greater visual loss, but can sometimes be treated if detected early – often by 3D OCT scanning.

In DRY AMD, there are often small yellow deposits within the retina called drusen and areas of retinal atrophy (degeneration). The DRY form is more common accounting for about 90% of cases & is usually not treatable.

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